Vaping Congressman accused of using official funds on Steam games indicted on federal charges
Representative Duncan Hunter of San Diego County and his wife Margaret have been indicted on wire fraud and campaign finance charges.
Rep. Hunter was previously accused of misusing campaign funds to purchase more than $1300 worth of games on Valve's Steam platform. When it came to light that Hunter had also previously gained short-lived internet notoriety for vaping on the House floor, the combination of his e-cigarette advocacy and his alleged penchant for Team Fortress 2 hats caused him to go viral. (I still get people sending me screenshots of my own headline racking up tens of thousands of notes on Tumblr.)
The Hunters' indictments go much farther than the $1300 allegedly used for Steam purchases (which Rep. Hunter claimed were the result of his son accidentally using his campaign credit card). Federal court documents accuse the husband and wife of misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds since 2009, to pay for personal expenses ranging from private school tuition to oral surgery. And, yes, the $1300 (rather, $1500) spent on video games appears in these filings.
In total, the Hunters face 60 counts "ranging from conspiracy to wire fraud to falsification of records and prohibited use of campaign funds," according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first broke the story on the Congressman's alleged gaming addiction in 2016. They could both face years in prison if convicted.
FEC documents show that Rep. Hunter had noticed the Steam expenses in campaign records when they occurred in 2015 and marked them as "personal expense -- to be paid back." If it was a simple, one-time mistake, no real harm done, right? But the law likely doesn't see it that way, and $250,000 since 2009 doesn't seem like a mistake so much as a pattern. As of November 2017, Rep. Hunter had reportedly repaid more than $60,000 of the misused funds, which his team described as "personal, mistaken, and insufficiently documented expenditures," but that's still a far cry from the total amount listed in the indictments.
File it all under "weird news," perhaps. Against a backdrop of much farther-reaching political scandal in the headlines this week, this one is barely a drop in the bucket. But maybe there's a lesson to be learned here: "People who live in glass houses paid with misappropriated campaign funds shouldn't become mildly internet-famous by vaping on C-Span."
(h/t San Diego Union-Tribune)
UPDATE 8/22/18: The language of this article has been slightly revised to include a more accurate figure for Rep. Hunter's alleged Steam purchases. Thanks Andi McClure for spotting it in the official court filings.