Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter will be removed from his congressional committees as he and his wife prepare to appear in federal court Thursday to respond to charges of criminal campaign finance violations. KVCR's Ken Vincent has this report on how Hunter's legal probelms could affect his re-election effort.
In spite of an ongoing FBI investigation into his campaign spending, member of Congress Duncan Hunter – who represents the 50th congressional district just south of the Inland Empire -- coasted through the June primary election largely unscathed, finishing first by a 30-point margin and establishing himself as a strong favorite to hold the seat in November.
That's now changed.
On Tuesday, the Republican congressman and his wife were charged by a federal grand jury with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to finance family trips to Italy and Hawaii, golf outings, school tuition, theater tickets — even fast food purchases — and attempting to conceal the illegal spending in federal records.
The 48-page indictment brings a jolt of uncertainty into the contest, in a year when Democrats have targeted a string of Republican-held House seats across the state.
The 50th congressional district seat includes the Riverside County city of Temecula and much of inland San Diego County. The California secretary of state's office says there is no process in the elections code for Hunter to remove his name from the ballot, and there can be no write-in candidates for the November election.
Hunter's Democratic opponent for the seat this election year, Ammar Campa-Najjar, stopped short of calling on the congressman to resign. "I think justice should run its course," Campa-Najjar said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments. Ryan says in a statement Tuesday the charges against Hunter, a Republican, are "deeply serious."