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Duncan Hunter and the case of rabbit flights, NFL Red Zone, HBO and more

Office of Congressional Ethics details soon-to-be-former member’s use of campaign money

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., left, spent campaign money on a wide range of personal endeavors. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., left, spent campaign money on a wide range of personal endeavors. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

An Office of Congressional Ethics report released Monday shows in detail how Duncan Hunter’s campaign committee spent money on a range of personal expenses, including flights for a pet bunny rabbit, NFL Red Zone, Jack in the Box, Starbucks and family trips to Italy and Hawaii.

The OCE report was released by the House Ethics Committee, a panel that will lose its jurisdiction over Hunter when the California Republican resigns after the holidays. Hunter, who represents the 50th Congressional District of California, pleaded guilty last week to campaign finance fraud and subsequently announced his impending resignation.

In November 2015, Hunter spent $9,213 on hotels, flights, food, train transportation and jewelry for a family trip to Rome, Florence, Naples and Positano, Italy.

On two occasions, the Hunter family traveled to Hawaii for $7,066. In 2016, Hunter spent $2,891 on family trips to the Arizona Grand Resort, which included a cost for Hunter’s wife, Margaret, to attend an Irish dance festival.

Hunter spent $625 on flights for a pet rabbit on five separate United Airlines pet in cabin charges. Additionally, Hunter had a cage in his congressional office for his pet rabbit, Cadbury.

“Former Staffer A told the OCE that at some point after she no longer worked in the congressional office, Rep. Hunter kept a rabbit named Cadbury in his congressional office,” the OCE report states. “Former Staffer A explained that the rabbit ‘was an office pet that Duncan had brought back with him from San Diego’ and that it had a cage in the congressional office. The rabbit accompanied Rep. Hunter and his children on flights at the campaign committee’s expense.”

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is interviewed about his vaporizer pen in his Rayburn office, January 13, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Hunter said he plans to resign after the holidays. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The OCE report also found that the campaign committee paid $6,341 for the travel of Hunter’s friends and family.

Hunter spent $3,166 for cable and internet services from Cox Communications on a wide variety of programs, such as NFL Red Zone and UFC events.

“Rep. Hunter’s campaign committee paid for service at the Hunter family residence that included the Cox Advanced TV Premier Package, DVR service, the premium channels HBO and Starz, and Cox High Speed Internet,” the OCE report says. “The account statements for this period include charges for late payment fees, multiple UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) events, NFL Red Zone, and many pay-per-view movies from multiple genres.”

Hunter also used campaign funds for garage door replacements, family health care, school uniforms. Further, he used $229 in campaign dollars at Star Trader, a store at the Disneyland resort that sells Star-Wars themed merchandise. The expense was marked as “FOOD/BEVERAGES.”

“Even if Rep. Hunter purchased some food at the store, it was unlikely that the entire $229.44 purchase was for food and beverages, or that any Star Wars themed items purchased were legitimate campaign expenses,” the OCE report says.

Over a three-year span, campaign money was spent on everyday purchases, including $5,113 at Costco; $526 on Starbucks, $494 at Jack in the Box and $1,595 at Olive Garden, according to the report.

The OCE found that there is “substantial reason” to believe Hunter converted campaign money to pay for personal expenses.

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