SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Lawyers for Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, said Thursday the congressman will fully cooperate with a Department of Justice investigation into alleged campaign spending irregularities.
The inquiry into Hunter, who represents San Diego's East County and a small portion of southern Riverside County, was revealed by the ranking members of the House Ethics Committee.
"Last year, Congressman Hunter became aware of expenditure issues confronting his campaign committee," according to a statement issued by his lawyers, Elliot Berke and Gregory Vega.
"Out of an abundance of caution, he took corrective action in consultation with the (Federal Election Commission) and, ultimately, he and his wife personally repaid the campaign approximately $60,000," according to the attorneys. "Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional."
The five-term lawmaker is accused of spending campaign money on groceries, hotels in Italy and Arizona, and nail salon services, among other things, in violation of federal law and House rules.
The investigation has apparently been under way for at least two weeks. The online publication Times of San Diego reported that employees of a nearby auto shop saw FBI personnel at Hunter's El Cajon district office two Thursdays ago.
FBI Special Agent Davene Butler said the agency "can't confirm or comment on investigative activity or the existence of an investigation."
Justice Department officials asked the House Ethics Committee chaired by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Indiana, to hold off on its own investigation.
In a statement, Brooks and ranking Democrat Rep. Ted Deutsch of Florida, said they received a case referral regarding Hunter from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Aug. 31 last year. In mid-December, Brooks and Deutsch agreed to extend their review.
"The Department of Justice has asked the committee to defer consideration of this matter and the committee, following precedent, unanimously voted on March 22, 2017, to defer consideration of this matter at this time," according to their joint statement.
Pursuant to Committee Rule 17A(h)(1), the committee is making the OCE's Report in this matter public. Under that rule, when the committee votes to defer in this manner, it must release the report, but not the findings, along with a public statement announcing its deferral.
"At least annually, the committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on the matter," Brooks and Deutsch said.
"The committee notes that the mere fact of its decision to defer action on this matter, and any mandatory disclosure of that decision and the OCE's report, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred."
Hunter is a Marine veteran of the U.S. war in Iraq who succeeded his father, Duncan Hunter, as East County's representative in Congress. He was one of the first legislators to embrace the candidacy of Donald Trump and is one of the president's main backers on Capitol Hill.