The U.S. Congressman from Southern California, once seen as a possible vaping industry savior, has been arrested and charged with campaign finance violations and wire fraud. Hunter and his wife Margaret are alleged to have spent more than a quarter-million dollars of campaign funds on personal expenses.
The flamboyant representative and his wife were indicted Tuesday on charges of wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy. The 47-page indictment includes detailed allegations, including spending $600 on a plane ticket for a pet rabbit, and writing off personal purchases from a golf pro shop by claiming they were donations of golf balls for wounded veterans.
The Hunters will be formally arraigned in a San Diego federal court Thursday.
The couple has been under investigation by the Justice Department for over a year, according to CNN. A Hunter spokesperson said the Congressman thinks the prosecution is “purely politically motivated.” But the supervising U.S. Attorney in the San Diego office is a Trump appointee.
Hunter was the second member of Congress to openly support the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. The first, New York Rep. Chris Collins, recently suspended his re-election campaign after being charged with insider stock trading by federal prosecutors. Hunter has not suspended his campaign.
Hunter was famous for twice vaping during meetings in the Capitol — and on camera — a stunt that earned him much scorn and enraged some vaping advocates, who were concerned the flippant California Republican would cause even more damage to vaping’s already shaky public image.
In April 2017 Hunter introduced a House bill that would rewrite the Tobacco Control Act to remove vapes from the tobacco product definition that was imposed by the Deeming Rule. Bill HR 2194, called the Cigarette Smoking Reduction and Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act, was supported by e-liquid standards group AEMSA, but almost no other vaping advocacy group.
Many feared that the ambitious bill would confuse lawmakers and dilute Congressional support for the 2017 version of the Cole-Bishop bill. Later AEMSA announced that its members opposed Cole-Bishop. Neither bill went anywhere in the House.