CONGRESSMAN DEFENDS BUNNY TRAVEL
There is nothing better than a ridiculous scandal involving a public person to excite journalists. Congressman Duncan Hunter has provided journalists a perfect whipping boy for the past several months over improper charges to Hunter’s campaign funds. The ongoing revelations have triggered months of investigate reporting aided by the findings of the Federal Election Commission.
Last week the most absurd disclosure of improper expenditures of campaign funds attracted national attention in The Washington Post. Hunter used his campaign credit card to pay the fare of his kid’s pet bunny rabbit to ride in the passenger section of an airline.
True to the Congressman’s usual response when caught cheating, he defended the $600 fare as a “mistake.” It should have been charged to Hunter’s airline mileage points. Just another of many mistakes he made using the campaign fund credit card which has already cost Hunter $62,000 in reimbursements for personal use of campaign funds.
The investigation by the Federal Election Commission might result in a criminal charge, as several other Congressmen were indicted for similar charges with fines or imprisonment. Until the investigation is complete, the media can have its fun revealing these extravagant personal benefits taken from political donations by Hunter’s campaign supporters, 90 percent who are outside of Hunter’s Congressional District.
The bunny travel disclosure came out at the same time the new Congress attempted to curtail the authority of the Federal Election Commission. No Congressperson wants to be caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They believe their own oversight committee’s over reached its authority in exposing campaign-fund violations.
Duncan Hunter’s chief of staff latched on to that concept in defending his boss’s transgression. The fact that he made a mistake in booking the rabbit’s fare was blamed on the zealous committee and investigative reporters. Somehow that is not a believable explanation.
The Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee investigate campaign-fund abuse. Under the authority of the Office of Congressional Ethics, it is a self-appointed watchdog regulation created by Congressional members. In the very first 2017 session of the new Congress, a caucus attempted to disarm the commission’s authority. It failed.
Hunter thought his transgressions could be ignored because the commission over-reacted by singling him out. Bunny travel just couldn’t pass the test of being a legitimate campaign expense. Hunter even publicly claimed that he was not under investigation, The Washington Post reported, as the House Ethics Committee extended its investigation.
It’s now up to the authorities to determine if Hunter broke any laws. At least the bunny got a comfortable ride in the passenger cabin.
Observations by John Patrick Ford can be found at https://jpatrickford.me.