I don’t know exactly what’s in the water down in California’s 50th district but it must be something that turns Republican congressmen into major crooks. In the last decade alone, two of them have been indicted on serious federal corruption charges; first, the notorious Duke Cunningham who served 8 years in prison after convictions of bribery and a host of other crimes. And today we have Duncan Hunter who, along with his wife, apparently believed that they could use campaign and charity funds as their own personal piggy bank.
The Washington Post helpfully published a list of what they called the top 10 “ickiest” allegations against him. Here are just a handful to illustrate the depth of their greed:
- Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $200 on tennis shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, which she then claimed as being for an annual dove hunting event for wounded warriors.
- When Hunter told his wife he needed to “buy my Hawaii shorts,” but he was out of money, she allegedly told him to buy them from a golf pro shop so he could claim they were actually golf balls for wounded warriors.
- Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $152 on makeup at Nordstrom and told the campaign it was “gift basket items for the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.”
- They allegedly described the payment of their family dental bills as a charitable contribution to “Smiles for Life.”
But perhaps the ickiest of all was when Hunter threw his wife/accomplice under the bus the day the indictment was announced saying, “When I went away to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney. She handled my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got into Congress. She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it.”
Then he whined like Donald Trump about the whole thing being a partisan witch hunt (by the GOP led DOJ) and complained about the “deep state” being out to get him.
This is what passes for a chivalrous war hero turned Republican leader these days.
And yes, Hunter is still running for re-election in November, apparently believing that his district actually prefers to be represented by a criminal. (It was one of the rare California districts Trump won in 2016, so that’s not a crazy as it sounds.)
But Hunter may have a surprise in store. According to the Morning Consult Tracking poll Trump’s approval rating, never high to begin with, is cratering in California. And in the 50th many of the voters are military and military retirees who may not be quite as sympathetic to Trump and minions like Hunter after the disgraceful display of pettiness they all showed during the funeral of the late John McCain.
Or maybe this part of the indictment against him will sway some of his Naval constituents:
In an attempt to justify spending campaign funds on a family trip to Italy, Hunter asked a naval base there for a tour. When officials said they couldn’t do it then, Hunter said, “Tell the Navy to go f— themselves.”
Hunter has another big problem on his hands — he has an excellent Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar. Ammar is a young, progressive former Obama administration labor official who, in yet another example of grassroots, progressive strength, shocked the Democratic establishment when he trounced the DCCC-favored “ex”-Republican primary opponent in the state’s jungle primary.
Blue America backed Ammar before the primaries and we are thrilled that the rest of the party has come around. Today he’s endorsed by the California Democratic Party, by the California Labor Federation, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Working Families Party, J Street, Our Revolution and as Howie says, “by some pretty impressive political figures who don’t rush willy-nilly into endorsing House candidates: Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti… and by the two best DCCC vice chairs, Ted Lieu and Joe Kennedy.”
Ammar has an impressive resume and a compelling life story as well. He was raised by his single Mexican American mom after his Palestinian father moved back to Gaza. His grandfather, who died 16 years before he was born, was involved in the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Of course, the Trumpsters are going there. But as the LA Times’ Robin Abcarian noted:
This is the kind of life story that tantalizes the dark imaginations of conspiracy theorists, xenophobes and racists, yet inspires people who believe in the beauty of the American melting pot, in not holding sons responsible for the sins of their forebears.
If there is a battle for the soul of this country, this race exemplifies it. A crooked, privileged scion of a political dynasty, slurping at the public trough, braying incoherently about partisan witch hunts running against a young idealistic Latino-Arab American running on an anti-corruption and jobs platform. We know which side we’re on, don’t we?
Blue America has always believed that no matter what the conventional wisdom says about whether a progressive can win in a particular district, you never know when a Republican crook (a redundancy these days) is going to get caught, so it’s always important to get on the ballot and run as hard as you can, which is exactly what Ammar has been doing for nearly 2 years.
This district may have been conservative for years but they just didn’t know what they were missing — an honest representative of the people. Ammar Campa-Najjar is who they have been waiting for.
You can donate to Ammar’s campaign here on our Blue America Better House page.
Thanks for always doing what you can to help make this a better world.
Digby, for the entire Blue America team