WASHINGTON (AP) — Outraged by the price of an airline ticket? Rep. Duncan Hunter got socked with a $600 charge for flying a pet bunny with his family. Worse yet, campaign donors got the tab until the California Republican caught what he says was a simple mistake.
There was no intent to stick donors with the cost, Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said. The congressman used airline miles to pay for his family's travel and there was an assumption that bringing along the rabbit would not incur an extra charge, Kasper said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
When Hunter found out his campaign had paid for the rabbit's transport, he paid back the money as part of more than $60,000 in other questionable charges, Kasper said, all self-identified and self-reported. The other charges included stays at resorts, video games and a garage door, the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported.
"It was a simple oversight," Kasper said of the rabbit's charge.
Still, the House Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into possible violations by Hunter. Eventually, the committee will release a report from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Going public with the bunny story now allows Hunter to tell his side of the story first.
In telling the tale to the Riverside (California) Press-Enterprise, Kasper pointed to the investigation as an example of overreach by the ethics office. He told the paper the report will contain findings or implications that are "significantly misrepresented or even exaggerated."
Kasper said the office has no mechanism to account for "oversights and certain mistakes, regardless of whether the mistake is the result of a vendor or individual."
Kelly Brewington, a spokeswoman for the Office of Congressional Ethics, declined to comment on the Kasper's remarks.
On Tuesday, Republicans attempted to curb the independent watchdog office — then retreated in the face of fierce criticism.
Last April, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the office to investigate whether Hunter violated federal law and House rules by using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses unrelated to campaign activities.