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The US congressman caught using campaign funds on Steam has been pardoned by Trump

Duncan Hunter
(Image credit: US House of Representatives (House Creative Services))

In 2016, US congressman Duncan Hunter came under scrutiny after spending more than $1,300 of campaign funds on Steam. Hunter claimed that his teenage son was responsible for one charge, while others were unauthorized charges that arose from his efforts to block access to Steam.

It turned out that the dodgy Steam transactions were just the tip of the iceberg: Despite his denials, Hunter and his wife were indicted two years later over allegations that they'd misused $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses and filed false campaign finance records to cover it up. As noted by military media outlet Task & Purpose, those expenses ranged from everyday mundanities like groceries to more than $14,000 for a family vacation to Italy.

(It also turned out that the Hunters had blown more than initially thought on Steam: The indictment said the Hunters "spent a total of $1,528.68 in Campaign funds at Steam Games on videogame charges.")

Hunter's wife Margaret, who served as his campaign manager, pleaded guilty in June 2019 and in March 2020 was sentenced to three years probation and eight months of house arrest. (Earlier this month, she filed for divorce.) Hunter himself fought the charges until December 2019, when he reached a deal to plead guilty to a single charge of misusing campaign funds. In October 2020, he was sentenced to 11 months in prison, beginning on January 4, 2021—his sentence was initially set to begin in May 2020 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ultimately, however, he will serve no prison time at all. As reported by NPR, Hunter has been granted a full pardon by outgoing US President Donald Trump. The pardon disclosure document is not yet listed on the US Department of Justice website, but the White House issued a statement saying that the pardon was granted "at the request of many Members of Congress." It also suggested the case against Hunter was mishandled, claiming that the offense he pleaded guilty to "could have been handled as a civil case via the Federation Election Commission."

Hunter's pardon was one of 15 pardons and commutations made by Trump on December 22. Other "full pardons" went to two former Border Patrol agents convicting of illegally killing a Mexican drug smuggler in 2005 and then attempting to cover it up (their sentences were commuted by former president George W. Bush in 2009), a former foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia, and four former Blackwater mercenaries who massacred 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in 2007. Margaret Hunter, however, was not granted a pardon.