Say this for the Trump era: there is almost a bottomless supply of corruption. On a single day, Trump’s former campaign manager was found guilty of fraud charges and his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight charges.
Lost in the avalanche of news was yet another corruption charge, this time against one of Trump’s earliest supporters, Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, are charged with looting his campaign funds to pay for his personal expenses. The indictment lists a colorful array of personal expenditures that the Hunters are alleged to have disguised as campaign expenses, ranging from a family vacation in Italy to “two Punky Brewster items” purchased at Target.
Hunter has a lot in common with another Republican Congressman under indictment, Chris Collins. Collins is charged with insider trading related to a Australian biotech company that was a favorite of Republican Congressman, including future (and now ex-) Secretary of HHS Tom Price. Price himself was canned from the Trump administration for his profligate spending of taxpayer dollars on travel.
Fittingly, given the rest of yesterday’s news, Hunter and Collins were the first two Congressmen to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign.
The other thing that Hunter and Collins have in common (along with Price) is a long history of anti-LGBTQ animus. Hunter was the first Iraqi war veteran elected to Congress, so he was particularly adamant about the issue of LGBTQ military personnel, relying on the old trope of troop cohesiveness.
“I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians,” Hunter said in a 2010 interview defending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. A year later, he complained to Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, about “the homosexual lobby.”
“They would like a military takeover by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, and that’s what they’re going to keep pushing for until it happens,” Hunter said.
Collins was cut from a similar anti-LGBTQ cloth. He was co-sponsor of a bill that would exempt conservative Christians from federal discrimination laws when it comes to same-sex married couples and has earned a 0 percent rating from HRC for his voting record.
Both Hunter and Collins represent deep red districts in deep blue states–Hunter in California and Collins in New York. Collins has announced he won’t seek re-election. Hunter says he will keep campaigning, although he’s been stripped of his committee assignments.
The indictments will make it harder for Republicans to hold onto the seats, even though the rightward tilt of the districts should be working in their favor.
Hunter and Collins join the long, long list of Trump boosters who have either faced federal charges (e.g, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn) or been forced from office because of flagrant corruption (e.g., former EPA director Scott Pruitt).
Of course, as the old saying goes, a fish rots from the head down.