Update: August 21, 2018 In a 47-page indictment today, federal prosecutors formally charged Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife Margaret with wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy involving $250,000 of campaign funds. That includes $1,528.68 spent “at Steam Games on video games” in 2015, according to the criminal complaint.
Margaret Hunter claimed at one point those purchases were “personal” and put on the campaign credit card in error, according to the documents. The campaign later promised in FEC reports that the Hunter family would pay back over $1,300 in Steam purchases from personal funds for this reason. But in 2016, according to the charging documents, Margaret Hunter falsely told her bank that the Steam charges were “fraudulent” and received a $1,302 credit for the purchases.
The indictment also alleges the Hunters used campaign funds for lavish personal spending on vacations, clothing, food and drink, salon trips, dental work, and more while concealing this spending from the FEC and investigators.
Below is our original story from 2016 about the FEC raising questions about Hunter’s spending on Steam games and other potential campaign fraud:
Original Story (April 6, 2016)
What would you do if you had access to millions of dollars in campaign funds? You’d probably blow some of it on video games, right? That’s what records say happened with $1,302 of the money earmarked for the campaign of Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), drawing the attention of the Federal Election Commission.
As The San Diego Tribune reports, a Hunter spokesman says the charges originally stemmed from Hunter’s teenage son, who “used his father’s credit card for one game,” after which “several unauthorized charges resulted after the father tried to close access to the website.” That’s a bit of a pat explanation considering that Steam Games were charged to Hunter’s campaign account on 68 separate occasions between October 13 and December 16, with $96 spent in one instance. Managing your various payment methods on Steam can be a little difficult, but that’s a long time for a parent to utterly fail at “closing access to the website.”
While the FEC isn’t formally investigating Hunter for the charges, his Treasurer has until May 9 to respond to a letter requesting more information about the unauthorized “personal use” of campaign funds. The expenses are marked in campaign documents as “personal expense, to be paid back,” but Hunter’s spokesperson said that “there won’t be any paying anything back there, pending the outcome of the fraud investigation, depending on how long that takes.” We can’t help but wonder if Hunter will try to make use of Steam’s recently implemented refund policy, even if he can’t prove any “fraud” happened on Steam’s part.
Hunter, who was elected to the San Diego-area district his father once represented in 2008, argued in a 2013 Politico editorial that video games shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat for real-world violence. “The narrative that children and young adults today stare at television and computer screens, developing lethal skills through first-person gaming experiences, disingenuously portrays video games as having a corrosive influence,” he wrote. “The problem with this rationale is that it conveys an image that America’s youth are incapable of discerning right from wrong, which simply is not true.”
Outside of gaming, Hunter gained national notoriety in February for vaping from an e-cigarette during a House hearing debating a ban on vaping in planes.
More Info: arstechnica.com