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The matter of a politician paying his spouse from a campaign committee has long served as political attack fodder in San Diego.

The most recent example came earlier this month when a U-T San Diego editorial blasted Democratic congressman Bob Filner for once employing his wife as a campaign consultant, engaging in what the U-T, run by GOP hotel mogul Doug Manchester, called "the legal but odious practice of federal lawmakers paying relatives a cut of the money they raise for their 'help' with fundraising."

"What makes this even more appalling," opined the U-T, "is that Filner mounted big fundraising campaigns even when he faced token election challenges, ensuring his family bank account would benefit."

As it happens, though, the most recent example of the spouse hiring practice, odious or not, is presented by Republican congressman Duncan D. Hunter, running virtually unopposed for re-election in California's newly drawn 50th congressional district.

(In June's open primary, Hunter got 67.4 percent of the vote to Democrat David Secor's 16.2 percent, which those in the know say mostly likely guarantees a Hunter victory, barring an unforeseen last-minute scandal.)

According to Hunter's most recently filed campaign disclosure report, covering the third quarter of this year, the GOP congressman raised the impressive sum of $877,882 during this election cycle through the end of September, and had $131,448 cash on hand at the conclusion of the reporting period.

Much of the cash came from the defense industry, which Hunter, like his father, who served in Congress before him, has fiercely championed.

Donors included executives of JCI Metal Products, which according to its website, "is a full service sheet metal company specializing in the fabrication, installation, modernization and repair of shipboard engineering, habitability, joiner and ventilation systems for the Military marine industry."

And Linden P. Blue, president of General Atomics Aeronautical, Poway's maker of the fearsome Predator drone, kicked in $3950.

Defense contractor-related political action committees, including the SAIC Voluntary PAC and the DRS Technologies, Inc. Good Government Fund of Parsippany, New Jersey, also made sizable contributions.

As is customary for House members with safe seats, Hunter handed out a big chunk of the cash to other congressional candidates of his party, including Arizona’s Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Other expenses included a $2,900 tab in July at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort in St Pete Beach, Florida, as well as an extensive array of meals, travel and lodging bills charged to American Express.

In addition, the disclosures show, from June through September of this year, the Hunter campaign paid the congressman’s wife Margaret $2,000 a month, plus several hundred dollars or so every thirty days in mileage and expense reimbursements. The filings list her role as providing “campaign management services.”

A woman who answered the phone at Hunter headquarters this morning confirmed that the congressman’s wife was serving as his campaign manger. The woman added that she did not know where Margaret Hunter was and suggested the best way to reach her was via e-mail. She said that Duncan Hunter was out of the country and also could not immediately be reached for comment.

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