IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Former GOP lawmaker pardoned by Trump hit with campaign finance fines

The Federal Election Commission fined Duncan Hunter over misuse of campaign funds. Trump pardoned him after he was sentenced to prison for campaign finance violations.
Image: U.S. ex-congressman Duncan Hunter leaves a federal court after being sentenced to 11 months in prison after earlier pleading guilty to a single corruption charge in San Diego, California
Duncan Hunter leaves a federal court in San Diego, Calif., on March 17, 2020.Mike Blake / Reuters file

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump in 2020, has agreed to pay a Federal Election Commission fine over misuse of campaign funds.

Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter, his former campaign manager, said they would pay $12,000 “solely for the purpose of settling this matter only and without admitting liability,” according to an FEC document made public this week.

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

The FEC said that due to his campaign's "lack of financial resources," the agency sought a smaller than usual fine, noting it would typically seek a "substantially higher civil penalty" of $133,000 based on the violations.

A quarterly report from October 2021 revealed that Hunter’s campaign had $14,000 cash on hand and roughly $40,000 in outstanding debts, 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 cash used 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 cash to pay for romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, prosecutors said.

The couple claimed that many of the alleged violations were “attributable to the nature of a tight-knit, family-run campaign,” and that many of the personal disbursements were repaid, according to an agreement signed with the FEC.

NBC News has reached out for comment to the lawyer representing Hunter's campaign committee.

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

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

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

A 2021 report from the FEC's general counsel, however, raised doubts about whether Trump's pardon extended to civil offenses, arguing the now-former president "limited the text of the Hunters’ pardons specifically to the criminal matter," which paved the way for the recent fines.