Rep. Hunter accused of ethics violation for vape connections

Rep. Hunter has vaped on the House floor before. Is this accusation a little more serious?

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Congressman-Duncan-Hunter
Congressman Duncan Hunter / Facebook

A political group has accused California Congressman Duncan Hunter of being too close to the vaping industry, and asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Hunter.

The American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF) — an organization founded by Hillary Clinton supporter David Brock — sent a letter to the ethics office complaining about Hunter’s “endorsement of private vaping products in blatant disregard of the House Ethics Rules.”

Hunter has become “too closely affiliated with the vaping industry, creating the appearance that he is accruing benefits and dispensing special favors for the industry,” says to the group’s complaint. The story was first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Rep. Hunter, a Republican from Alpine, CA, is a vaper himself, and has raised eyebrows in the past by vaping during Congressional hearings. His vaping in the U.S. House has given him the reputation as a showboat, and not all vaping advocates have been comfortable with the stunts.

During the 2016 Democratic primary elections, the organization filed ethics complaints against Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But Hunter has also introduced serious legislation that would address the issue of the FDA’s deeming regulations. HR 2194, the Cigarette Smoking Reduction and Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act, would modify the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to force the FDA to reasonably regulate vaping products. (For more on this legislation, see our story from April.)

A Hunter spokesman told the Union-Tribune that the Congressman did nothing wrong. “Congressman Hunter appreciates and supports the fact that the vaping industry is focused on harm reduction, meaning that vaping is an important tool utilized by many people to help reduce the harmful habit of smoking,” Michael Harrison said.

According to the Union-Tribune, Hunter has received at least $39,461 since 2015 from donors connected to the vaping industry. He has also received donations from lobbyists representing the vape and tobacco industries.

The American Democracy Legal Fund is a partisan “watchdog” organization, supposedly dedicated to calling out abuses by Republicans (like Hunter). However, the group is best known for attacking any and all political opponents of Hillary Clinton. During the 2016 Democratic primary elections, the organization filed ethics complaints against Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. The group was also accused of leading a smear campaign against Sanders.

The ADLF is led by David Brock, a right-wing journalist who later switched sides and became an ally of the Clintons. He founded the liberal media watchdog site Media Matters for America, and later “super PAC’s” dedicated to raising funds for and promoting Hillary Clinton’s presidential runs.

Despite the ADLF’s commitment to ridding the House of the taint of Hunter’s vape connections, the group doesn’t seem bothered by the obscenely large political contributions to members of Congress and candidates from the pharmaceutical industry. That might be because ADLF founder David Brock doesn’t want to draw attention to the more than $2.3 million received by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from pharma in 2016.

Jim McDonald

I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.

  • Jeff Kendall

    Excellent as always