WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is investigating California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter for possible campaign violations.
The House Ethics panel has been investigating allegations that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, such as trips to Hawaii and Italy and tuition for Hunter's school-age children.
Political analyst John Dadian simply said, "This ain't good. If he was ever convicted of a criminal crime he would have to resign from Congress."
Dadian said the investigation alone could wreck Hunter's ability to be re-elected."
"It's rare for the DOJ to investigate especially after any allegations of money spent improperly have been paid back, which it has," said Dadian. "Clearly there's something there. Somebody in the Department of Justice thinks there's enough there to open a formal investigation... This is absolutely one of the worst things that could happen to the Congressman short of possibly getting actual charges filed."
The analyst said his phone started buzzing after the investigation was announced. he said there's already chatter about who could challenge the Congressman or even run in a special election if Hunter is found guilty and forced to step down."
The panel said in a statement Thursday that it is delaying the inquiry at the request of the Justice Department.
Hunter won a fifth term last year representing the San Diego area.
Hunter's lawyers said Thursday he and his wife repaid the campaign about $60,000 and said Hunter intends to cooperate with the government investigation.
An Office of Congressional Ethics report said:
"Representative Duncan D. Hunter’s congressional campaign committee, Duncan D. Hunter for Congress, reported expenditures that may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes. Rep. Hunter may have converted tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds from his congressional campaign committee to personal use to pay for family travel, flights, utilities, health care, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries, and other goods, services, and expenses.
If Rep. Hunter converted funds from his congressional campaign committee for personal use, then he may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law."
Rep. Hunter's attorneys released a statement in response to the government investigation:
"Last year, Congressman Hunter became aware of expenditure issues confronting his campaign committee. Out of an abundance of caution, he took corrective action in consultation with the FEC and, ultimately, he and his wife personally repaid the campaign approximately $60,000. Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional."