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Former GOP lawmaker pardoned by Trump hit with campaign finance fines

Former Representative Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump in 2020, has agreed to pay a Federal Elections Commission fine for misusing campaign funds.

Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “only to resolve this matter and admit no liability,” according to an FEC document released this week.

Hunter’s campaign committee agreed to pay a separate $4,000 fine.

The FEC said that because of its campaign’s “lack of funding” the agency had a lower-than-normal fine, noting that it would typically demand a “substantially higher civil fine” of $133,000 based on the violations.

An October 2021 quarterly report revealed that Hunter’s campaign had $14,000 on hand in cash and about $40,000 in outstanding debt, the FEC said, and the campaign appeared unable to raise additional funds.

In 2019, federal prosecutors said Hunter and his wife “converted and stole” more than $250,000 by using campaign money for purchases such as family trips to Hawaii and Italy, plane rides for relatives and their pet rabbit, and even $1,500 for video games. Hunter also used campaign money to pay for romantic affairs with lobbyists and congressional staff, prosecutors said.

The couple claimed that many of the alleged violations were “attributable to the nature of a close-knit, family-run campaign,” and that many of the personal expenses were reimbursed, under an agreement signed with the FEC.

NBC News has contacted the attorney representing Hunter’s campaign committee.

Hunter pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds in December 2019 and resigned from his home seat a month later after serving in Congress for more than a decade. He was later sentenced to 11 months in prison.

His wife pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds in 2019 and would testify against her husband for more than 20 years if the case went to trial.

But as Trump neared the end of his presidency, he issued a torrent of pardons, offering Hunter and his wife “full and unconditional” pardons for their criminal convictions.

However, a 2021 report from the FEC’s general counsel cast doubt on whether Trump’s pardon extended to civil crimes, arguing that the now-former president’s “pardoned the Hunters specifically to the criminal case.” limited”, paving the way for the recent fines.

Zoe Richards

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