Congressional Watch: Hunter on the hot seat

Posted: May 13th, 2016 | Columns, Congressional Watch, Featured, News | No Comments

By Andy Cohen | Congressional Watch

It’s been a rough month for Duncan Hunter (R-50). First there was the matter of somequestionable charges made to his campaign credit card. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) had called to question some 68 charges made to the campaign account for video games, which were filed to his campaign disclosure statement with the notation “personal expense — to be paid back.”

congressional_watchHunter blamed the charges on a misunderstanding, claiming his son borrowed the credit card to purchase a video game and that the subsequent charges were somehow mistakes that the congressman was attempting to have reversed. The charges, totaling $1,302 from Steam Games, occurred between Oct. 13 and Dec. 16, with no attempt at reimbursement.

The FEC is also looking into several other instances of questionable uses of campaign cash, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Among the expenditures are $1,137 for oral surgery, $1,128 for a Hawaiian hotel stay, and over $2,000 spent on food, train travel, andlodging during a Thanksgiving trip to Italy. More than $6,000 was also paid to the private Christian schools that Hunter’s children attend.

Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, has claimed that all of the ineligible expenses were simply “mistakes,” and that Hunter is making every effort to repay the nearly $12,000 in personal charges. Kasper also insists that the investigation into his boss is part of a leftist conspiracy to discredit Hunter.

If all of this wasn’t bad enough for Hunter, the “vaping” congress member made matters worse for himself on April 27 during a House Armed Services Committee hearing regarding an amendment he introduced to lift the ban on women registering for the selective service (the draft), when he made clear that he had no intention of supporting the bill.

We’ve covered Hunter’s objections to the Pentagon’s recent policy change allowing women full combat roles before. A former Marine, Hunter is vehemently opposed to the change and believes he is better suited than Pentagon brass to determine military policy, even going so far as calling Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS.”

“If we had that vote today I would vote against women being in infantry and special operations,” Hunter told the committee, and it was an attempt to make a point that he offered the amendment to lift the draft restrictions on women.

“The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemy’s throats out and kill them for our nation, sanctioned by the U.S. government. That’s what a draft is for,” Hunter said. “I’ve spoken to coffee house liberals in San Francisco, and conservative families who pray three times a day, and none of those families want their daughters to be drafted. Hunter eventually said he may even vote against his own amendment.

“While you may be offering this as a ‘gotcha’ amendment, I would suggest that there is great merit in recognizing that each of us has an obligation to be willing to serve our country during a time of war,” replied Jackie Speier (D-CA).

“Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights, the same opportunities, the same obligations, across all sectors of society and that includes military service,” said Nikki Tsongas (D-MA).

Even one of Hunter’s Republican colleagues, Martha McSally (R-AZ) got into the act, criticizing Hunter’s characterization of the draft, noting that all positions in the military are filled by the selective service, and not just combat positions. The amendment passed on a bipartisan vote, 32-30. Hunter, of course, voted “no.”

Despite all this, Hunter will of course be easily reelected in November.

Susan Davis (D-53) introduced a bill in Congress that would provide funding to school districts to train teachers and other school administrators to be able to detect signs that their students have fallen victim to sex trafficking and how to intervene.

“Local school districts are setting the standard for creating programs that can detect the signs that may lead to their students becoming victims of sex trafficking,” Davis said in a press release. “The federal government should help them.”

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, between 8,830 and 11,773 San Diegans fall victim to sex trafficking per year. The average age of entry is 15 years old, mostly facilitated by gangs.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization named Scott Peters (D-52) as its legislator of the year for 2016 last month.

“Representative Peters has distinguished himself by supporting policies that foster innovation, including increasing NIH funding, protecting our U.S. patent system, promoting an industry-friendly tax environment and advocating for science-based regulations,” said the organization in a press release. “He also co-founded the Congressional Life Science Caucus with Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) at the end of last year and is a great supporter of this industry that is one of Southern California’s economic cornerstones.”

It’s the third time Peters has won the award.

Peters also delved into the GOP presidential primary late last month when Republican hopeful Ted Cruz made a visit to San Diego.

“The government shutdown was Cruz’s main accomplishment as a Senator,” Peters said, according to La Jolla Patch. “In San Diego, we understand exactly who was hurt by that political Tea Party stunt … We have scientists and researchers that depend on basic science research grants that had to suspend their work often.”

Darrell Issa (R-49) earlier this month encouraged the U.S. Department of Energy to include Southern California on its list of sites for public hearings on long-term nuclear waste storage. Residents from both southern Orange County and San Diego County have expressed concerns over the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods at the now inactive San Onofre nuclear power plant. The department was unable to accommodate the request, but did vow to send a high ranking official to the next community engagement meeting in June.

“This is encouraging news for Southern Californians,” Issa said, according to the Union Tribune. “For many of us, especially those in the San Clemente area, the storage of nuclear waste at [San Onofre] is really a major source of concern.”

—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at

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