Rep. Hunter To Plead Guilty To Misusing Campaign Donations GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter announced Monday that he plans to plead guilty to federal campaign finance charges. It's a dramatic downfall for the California lawmaker, who's likely to serve prison time.
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Rep. Hunter To Plead Guilty To Misusing Campaign Donations

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Rep. Hunter To Plead Guilty To Misusing Campaign Donations

Rep. Hunter To Plead Guilty To Misusing Campaign Donations

Rep. Hunter To Plead Guilty To Misusing Campaign Donations

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/784343450/784343451" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter announced Monday that he plans to plead guilty to federal campaign finance charges. It's a dramatic downfall for the California lawmaker, who's likely to serve prison time.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter is facing federal corruption charges. He's expected to plead guilty today to one count of misusing campaign funds. Priya Sridhar is a reporter with member station KPBS.

PRIYA SRIDHAR, BYLINE: The Southern California Congressman had pleaded not guilty to 60 federal criminal counts. Prosecutors say he used $250,000 of campaign money on personal expenses. Hunter told local news station KUSI in San Diego that he decided to change his plea because he didn't want to put his family through a trial.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUNCAN HUNTER: I did make mistakes. I justify that plea with the understanding that I am responsible for my campaign and what happens to my campaign money.

SRIDHAR: He had defended himself against the charges, saying they were politically motivated. Here's what he said in 2018.

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HUNTER: You have a partisan, biased Department of Justice employees that are doing it to Trump, that are doing it to me.

SRIDHAR: Hunter still faces up to five years in prison. His wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in June. She agreed to testify against her husband and is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER: Whatever my time in custody is, I will take that hit. My only hope is that the judge does not sentence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home.

SRIDHAR: It's not clear yet, but this change of plea could lead him to resign his seat. Hunter has been campaigning for reelection against former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa and Republican State Senator Brian Jones, among others. The primary election is scheduled for March 2020.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER: And we're going to pass it off to whoever takes the seat next. And we'll make sure that that's a seamless transition.

SRIDHAR: Hunter has represented the 50th Congressional District in California for 11 years. His father was a congressman in the area for almost 30 years. The district is one of the last Republican strongholds in the mostly blue state.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER: I think it's important to keep the seat a Republican seat. President Trump, right now, needs support more than ever.

SRIDHAR: Hunter beat his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, last year by 3 percentage points - the closest he has ever come to defeat. Hunter is a Marine Corps veteran and says his proudest accomplishment has been to help service members who he believes are wrongly prosecuted. Hunter is scheduled to appear in federal court this morning. For NPR News, I'm Priya Sridhar in San Diego.

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