A former Republican lawmaker is heading to the slammer for treating campaign money like a travel fund.
Duncan Hunter, the eccentric former U.S. representative from California who became known as “the vaping congressman,” was sentenced to 11 months in jail on Tuesday for corruption, Fox News reported. Hunter had said that the prosecution was a “witch hunt” before pleading guilty to spending $250,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
“Vaping congressman” heads to jail
The flamboyant congressman rose to internet stardom in 2016 when he ostentatiously smoked an e-cigarette during a House committee hearing, a stunt that earned him the nickname “the vaping congressman.” But it turns out that indulging in vices wasn’t just part of his public persona.
Prosecutors accused Hunter of misusing campaign funds to pay for a free-wheeling lifestyle. According to the New York Post, he spent campaign cash on family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, affairs with numerous women, tequila shots, airline tickets for his pet rabbit, and other expenses.
Other items included ski trips to Lake Tahoe and a book titled Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, the New York Post reported. His wife Margaret also used campaign funds for shopping expenses.
Hunter had been facing years in prison before he struck a plea deal in December admitting to the crimes. He previously had maintained his innocence and accused Democrat prosecutors in the “Deep State” of pursuing a “witch hunt” against him. His wife Margaret struck a plea in June and agreed to testify against him.
“It’s obvious that the Department of Justice went after her to get to me for political reasons,” Hunter said of the situation, according to Fox.
A legacy in disgrace
Before his sentencing, Hunter admitted fault and asked the judge to “take sympathy” on his wife when she is sentenced next month, Reuters reported. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern said that Hunter’s crimes fed public mistrust of their elected officials.
“Too many people have come to embrace the cynical idea that the politicians who make the laws are not required to follow the laws,” Halpern reportedly told Reuters. “Hunter perpetuated that false idea by committing campaign finance fraud and then lying to the public to cover it up.”
Hunter will report to jail by May. Following the completion of his sentence, he will remain under supervised release for three years.
A former Marine and Iraq War veteran, Hunter resigned in January after taking his plea, ending a congressional career of 10 years. He had narrowly defended his seat in California’s conservative, San Diego-area 50th district in 2018.
His father, Duncan Hunter, Sr., previously held the seat. According to Fox, the vacancy is now up for grabs between Democrat Campa-Najjar, who Hunter defeated in 2018, and a Republican, likely former Rep. Darrell Issa.