Rep, Duncan Hunter (R-50th District) had a busy day of “just say no” as his chief aide said the Alpine congressman wouldn’t hold an in-person town hall and Hunter said he wouldn’t assist in any federal aid requests from sanctuary cities, including his own.
All of San Diego County, and cities in Hunter’s district, are classified as sanctuary areas, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records obtained by The Texas Tribune last month.
That means Hunter, himself under significant investigations and possible penalties for using campaign funds for personal expenses, is in the odd position of refusing to assist in federal aid requests for his own district and refusing to meet with his own constituents.
Hunter Thursday told the right-wing, Rev. Sun Ayung Moon-founded, Washington Times he won’t be involved in any request filed by a jurisdiction that tries to thwart federal agents.
“Sanctuaries that defy federal immigration laws should be held accountable,” Hunter said. “If a state or local entity prefers to violate the law and not cooperate on federal immigration matters, this should be an immediate disqualifier for federal funding.”
The Times noted that “counties, cities and school boards line up each year to beg their members of Congress to put in a good word for them when the federal government is working on its annual spending bills, hoping to garner a piece of the federal pie.”
Hunter challenged other members of Congress to refuse as well, according to The Times, hoping they can exert pressure from Capitol Hill to try to rein in the growing number of cities that say they’ll become sanctuaries.
More than 18,000 times over the past two years, local jails across the country have failed to hand over deportable immigrants to federal authorities, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records obtained by The Texas Tribune.
The largest number by far of what the agency calls “declined detainers” was recorded in California — more than 11,000 since 2015. No breakdown was given for how many deportable immigrants had been requested from North County San Diego.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
Despite over 100 people descending on Hunter’s El Cajon and Temecula offices on Tuesday asking for an in-person town hall meeting, his chief aide, Joe Kasper, told the Los Angeles Times that Hunter would not hold such a meeting.
Kasper told The L.A. Times that Hunter’s Washington office has had a slight uptick in calls from outside his suburban San Diego district, “but contact from within our district? Nothing has changed.”
Hunter normally holds at least two in-person town hall meetings a year, as well as three telephone town halls, according to Kasper who added that the congressman feels no rush to hold a meeting, especially if he feels it won’t be constructive.
“They’re doing it with the specific purpose of trying to create a public event which they can attend and agitate,” Kasper said. “We’re not going to adjust the way we do things just because there is a group out there looking to make a scene.”
An online petition calling for an in-person town hall meeting circulated at Change.org, visit here, by San Marcos resident Brina Bujkobsky had 620 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
All this came amidst Hunter’s Bunnygate, the name given to the accumulation of evidence and repayment of campaign finances that were used for personal spending over at least a 2-year period.
The San Diego Union Tribune last month published a map exploring what Hunter and his campaign spent during the past two years. The larger circles show larger expenditures, and the colors indicate whether Hunter has reimbursed his campaign.
Red expenses are those reimbursed, which means they were identified by his own campaign as personal, mistaken or lacking documentation. Yellow expenses were partially reimbursed, and green expenses were identified by the campaign as allowable.
Drag the map to look beyond North America — there are also several expenditures in Italy. Zoom into San Diego County or Washington D.C. to see the largest clusters of expenses.
Even as Hunter repaid over $65,000 in campaign funds spent on personal expenses, including money spent for trips abroad, his kids schooling, gas and food, Disneyland trips and air travel for his pet bunny rabbit, the Union Tribune Wednesday reported:
“Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign continued in the last quarter of 2016 to spend money on “food/beverages” at a cigar lounge in his district, where he was photographed apparently smoking a Cuban cigar on election night.”
Hunter’s financial disclosure report, filed last week with the Federal Election Commission, shows his campaign spent $404 at Alpine Tobacco Company Cigar and Wine Bar in Alpine in November, The Union Tribune said. The spending is in addition to the $3,018 Hunter’s campaign has reported spending on “food/beverages” at that smoking lounge and two others since April 2015.
Hunter’s campaign spending has come under scrutiny by the Office of Congressional Ethics since the FEC first raised questions last April. He has reimbursed his campaign for more than $60,000 his office identified as personal, mistaken or insufficiently documented. None of the tobacco expenses have been reimbursed.
Federal law does not allow the expenditure of campaign contributions for personal benefit, to protect against undue influence by donors. Hunter’s campaign treasury is largely funded by defense contractors, transportation companies and others whose business is affected by Congressional committees upon which Hunter serves.
Campaign disbursements used illegally for Hunter’s personal expenses — most of them incurred in 2015 before a Federal Election Commission complaint became public — included:
106 fill-ups at gas stations, totaling $5,660.
16 trips to Jack in the Box totaling $297.
Forty trips to Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s or another grocery store, spending $6,819 total.
An expense for $229 at a Disneyland gift shop for “food/beverages.” A spokesman for the park told the Union-Tribune the only edible items the store sells are Pez candy and a Star Wars-themed Rice Krispy treat.
Utilities — $1,269 for San Diego Gas & Electric and $300 to the Padre Dam Municipal Water District.
More than $2,000 on restaurants, hotels and train travel in the Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Positano during the Thanksgiving holiday week in 2015.
A payment for $216 to Gioielleria Manetti in Florence, listed on a disclosure report as “food/beverages.” The store makes and customizes jewelry and watches, according to its website. A store representative said it offers no food or drinks.
$1,300 spent at the Cardiff-by-the-Sea restaurant that provides lunches to Hunter’s children’s El Cajon private school.