A Rabbit’s Campaign-Funded Flight Reveals Why The Congressional Ethics Office Matters So Much

News & Culture Writer

The night before the first day of the 115th U.S. Congress, House Republicans voted to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) behind closed doors. Yet they quickly abandoned the secret maneuver, which was opposed by Democrats, Speaker Paul Ryan, and even President-elect Donald Trump — though for not-so-selfless reasons. The resulting 24-hour media blitz gave the OCE the most attention since its founding in 2008 following the tumultuous scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which pressured lawmakers to found the nonpartisan group charged with keeping the U.S. House (and its own Ethics Committee) in line.

The result? Renewed local and national interest in what certain members of congress and their staff were up to, and whether or not those who promoted the initial “gutting” were under investigation by the OCE. Sure enough, California Rep. Duncan Hunter — the Internet-famous “vaping congressman” who was previously caught using campaign funds to purchase video games — was one of the proposal’s proponents. And according to the Press-Enterprise newspaper in California’s Riverside County, he’s currently under review by the OCE for “inappropriate” campaign expenses, or expenditures made in “error.”

One of the more colorful instances of financial discrepancy involves Hunter flying his family’s pet rabbit to the tune of $600:

“(The office) has in their report $600 in campaign expenditures for in cabin rabbit transport fees,” [Hunter’s spokesperson Joe Kasper] said. “Since travel is often done on (airline) miles — which is entirely permissible — the credit card connected to the account was charged several times even when his children were flying.”

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