On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that the Federal Election Commission has finally handed down fines against disgraced former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his associates for a massive campaign finance fraud scheme.
However, noted the report, the actual size of the fine is small relative to the actual amount of money he stole — just $16,000 in total, $12,000 for Hunter and his wife and $4,000 for campaign treasurer Chris Marston.
"Hunter had committed what were widely seen as among the most flagrant personal use violations in recent history," reported Roger Sollenberger. "Over a period of several years, he and his wife — Margaret Hunter, who doubled as his campaign manager — stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign account and spent it on personal items like vacations, gifts, groceries, oral surgery, and credit card bills. Hunter himself was accused of using thousands of dollars in donor money to fund numerous extramarital affairs, including with multiple lobbyists and a Republican aide. Margaret Hunter, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2018 and cooperated against her husband, served eight months under house arrest. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds in December 2019, resigned from Congress the next month, and was sentenced to 11 months in prison in March 2020."
Ultimately, though, Hunter never served any of his sentence, as former President Donald Trump pardoned him on his way out the door in December 2020.
"Although the Justice Department administers criminal statutes of campaign finance law, of which there are relatively few, the FEC retains jurisdiction for civil violations. And so, a full two years after sentencing and nearly four years after the initial 60-count indictment, the FEC, in a rare unanimous 6-0 vote, finally moved on the Hunters," said the report. "First they had to get past the pardon. Although the general counsel’s report acknowledged that courts have not 'squarely addressed' whether presidential pardon powers extend to civil violations, the text of Trump’s pardon in this case, the report concluded, was narrow and 'directed squarely at the criminal conviction and resulting punishment.'"
Hunter's pardon was one of a flurry Trump issued for his political allies. He also pardoned former strategist Steve Bannon for an alleged scheme to defraud people donating to a private fund to build a border wall. Bannon has since been re-indicted on totally separate charges for contempt of Congress after refusing to cooperate with the House investigation of the January 6 attack.