By Yahairah Aristy and Jeff Benesch | La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club
On Wednesday evening, May 2, the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club will be hosting a star-studded panel to examine the 50th Congressional District’s embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter and his host of reported ethical and financial irregularities — primarily the use of campaign funds for personal use.
A grand jury investigation into his questionable financial expenditures is ongoing. And according to a recent article in Politico, “Hunter has developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and carousing, according to multiple lawmakers and staffers who have witnessed his behavior over the past several years.”
The Union Tribune has reported that Hunter’s campaign expenses at drinking establishments far exceed those reported by campaigns for the other four members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation, FEC data shows.
For the filing periods covering Jan. 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016, Hunter’s campaign reported 66 transactions totaling $36,358 at bars, pubs, cigar lounges, liquor stores and other establishments known for their alcoholic beverages. During the same time period, the next-biggest San Diego area campaign spender at such establishments was Rep. Darrell Issa, whose campaign reported 13 charges totaling $5,402.
CREW, an ethics advocacy group, has filed complaints with two federal oversight agencies, asking officials to investigate what the group describes as a pattern of questionable campaign spending by Hunter.
The complaints, filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics, describe thousands of dollars Hunter’s campaign spent on personal items, including video games, school lunches, airfare for a pet rabbit, gold jewelry, and services of an oral surgeon — and raises new questions about spending on what appears to be a vacation to Italy. Federal law forbids spending of campaign funds for personal purposes or benefit, to guard against corrupting influences by donors. In Hunter’s case, defense contractors, the vaping industry, and others with interests before committees on which he serves, are his primary contributors.
Headlining our panel, and a veteran political operative, is Jon “Bowser” Bauman, uncle of Eric Bauman, the chairman of the California Democratic Party. Jon is best known for his decades-long association with the oldies group, Sha Na Na.
Bauman regularly campaigns for Democrats in special elections and endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008. He has also worked as a spokesman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and is currently president of Social Security Works PAC, a national organization working to elect candidates who support protecting and expanding Social Security benefits.
We’ll also have on the dais, our club- and party-endorsed candidate to replace Hunter in the East County District, Ammar Campa-Najjar.
Campa-Najjar was born in La Mesa and later attended Catholic school in the Gaza Strip. Upon his family’s return to San Diego in 2001, he attended Islamic School of San Diego for elementary school, Eastlake High School, and community college at Southwestern College. He graduated from San Diego State University, where he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and psychology.
During the Obama administration, Campa-Najjar served in the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs for the Employment and Training Administration.
Citing bipartisan support for the program, Campa-Najjar has called on the Trump administration to expand and strengthen the Registered Apprenticeship job training initiative. He supports environmentally sustainable development and wants to encourage development of solar farms and bring SpaceX to his district.
The La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club meets the first Wednesday of every month at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive in La Mesa starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit lamesafoothillsdemocraticclub.com, and like us on Facebook.
— Yahairah Aristy is president and Jeff Benesch is vice president of programming for the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.