"I'm not resigning," U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter said Wednesday when he faced the media following an indictment alleging improper use of campaign funds.
“I’ve never used my campaign for personal expenditures - ever,” the Republican congressman said at a marina near downtown San Diego.
Hunter had just finished a morning fishing trip with veterans and described the trip as a campaign event.
"I've done nothing wrong and I say bring the trial now. Let's do this," he said.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were charged Tuesday with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to finance family trips to Italy and Hawaii, golf outings, school tuition, theater tickets — even fast food purchases — and attempting to disguise the illegal spending in federal records, prosecutors said.
When asked about his wife, Hunter said he did give his wife a campaign credit card before she was his campaign manager because she made purchases for the campaign.
A 48-page federal indictment depicts the couple as binge spenders who over eight years pocketed a steady stream of dollars intended for campaign purposes, while their household budget was awash in red ink.
Prosecutors said the couple tried to conceal the spending, which ranged from the banal to lavish, by falsifying records.
He said he gave power of attorney to his wife when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
"Just like most guys who are gone all the time, they give power of attorney to their wives. I didn't have a lot of visibility on my personal finances," he said. "I'm out there doing stuff. I'm out there working hard."
He added: "There's nothing illegal about being poor."
Hunter said he believed the indictment was politically motivated and compared himself to President Donald Trump.
“This is the new Department of Justice. This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement," the congressman said.
The House Ethics panel had investigated allegations that Duncan Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses. The panel said in March that it was delaying the inquiry at the request of the Justice Department.
“It’s the last chance they have to do this before the election. This is how they want to win the election. It’s easier to do this than actually running for office,” he said.
His campaign staff released a formal statement Wednesday. Read it here.
Hunter was among the earliest Republican members of Congress to endorse Trump.
The son of a longtime congressman, Hunter represents the strongly Republican 50th Congressional District in San Diego and Riverside counties.
He faces the prospect of campaigning under the shadow of a federal indictment in a year when Democrats have targeted several Republican-held House seats across the state.
The couple spent more than $1,500 on video games in 2015; and spent $6,288.74 to take his family on a vacation to a resort in Lahaina, Hawaii, the same year, the indictment said. Other spending included dental work, lavish dinners and movie tickets, prosecutors said.
In April 2015, Margaret Hunter spent nearly $1,000 in campaign funds to fly her mother and her mother's boyfriend to Poland and later told the campaign treasurer they were campaign trips to New Orleans and Kentucky.
His lawyers said in 2017 that Duncan Hunter and his wife repaid the campaign about $60,000.
Duncan Hunter's office said at the time that one of the charges he repaid was a $600 fee for flying a pet bunny with his family. There was no intent to stick donors with the cost, then-Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said at the time.