A new fund cropped up last year for supporters of scandal-plagued California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) to lavish money upon the lawmaker after reaching the limit they could give in campaign funding, according to The San Diego Tribune.
Nine donors, at least two of which had already hit the limit for political donations, contributed $30,800 during the last quarter of 2018 to help pay for the congressman’s legal defense.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret — who also acted as his campaign manager — have pleaded not guilty to a total of 60 charges relating to misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses.
The Tribune reported that Hunter reimbursed more than $60,000 to the campaign, for “mistaken, personal or undocumented expenditures including video games, oral surgery, private school tuition, a garage door, a family trip to Italy and airfare for a pet rabbit.”
Hunter’s legal defense fund is separate from his political campaign treasury and administered by a trustee — a perfectly legal arrangement.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) furnished the Tribune with the quarterly financial report for the legal expense fund, which the publication said details “fundraising and spending from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, shows $30,800 in itemized contributions and no spending.”
CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said such legal defense funds offer a way for wealthy donors who have hit the maximum contribution for political donations to continue supporting a candidate who is in legal trouble — “a favor lawmakers are likely to remember if the donor comes calling for help someday.”
“For some very rich donors, legal defense funds give a second bite at the apple, after they have already given a candidate the maximum donation allowable by law,” Libowitz told the Tribune.
Most people are not aware of such funds, Libowitz said, because rather than the information being readily available online, “you have to show up in person to Congress to request a physical copy of each filing,” which means “most people do not know who is giving to support a scandal-plagued lawmaker.”
Defense contractors appear to be well represented on the list of donors to Hunter’s legal expense fund, according to the Tribune, including “Gene W. Ray, co-founder and former chief executive officer of the multibillion-dollar defense contractor Titan Corporation.”
Ray served as CEO when Titan “agreed in 2005 to pay $28.5 million to settle criminal and civil charges stemming from allegations that it bribed the president of the West African nation of Benin in an attempt to get business.”
Linden Blue, vice chairman of the military contractor General Atomics, also donated to the fund.