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Rep. Duncan Hunter made headlines when he used a vaporizer during a Congressional hearing about a proposed ban on the use of e-cigarettes aboard airplanes. Hunter became an overnight hero to the vaping community. But he's also done some other stuff. This may come as a shock, but the guy who decided to vape in the middle of the U.S. Capitol has a fairly eclectic political record.
Here are three things you need to know about Duncan Hunter, aka The Vaping Congressman:
Hunter wanted to make sure the troops can get free cigars - The FDA in recent years has put stronger and stronger restrictions on tobacco companies. That included a new rule in September that barred them from giving away any of their products for free. As the champion for the people's right to inhale nicotine, Rep. Hunter was quick point out that the rule might possibly be unpatriotic. He sent an official letter to the FDA asking them if the fact that tobacco companies could no longer donate their products meant that it was also illegal for them to donate cigars to the troops. Because who really believes that the troops should be deprived the enjoyment of a fresh stogie courtesy of the fine people in Big Tobacco? I have no idea if the FDA will actually change the rule, but you got to give Hunter credit. Bringing the troops into a fight over tobacco giveaways, that's some first-class politicking.
Hunter is extremely reckless with his campaign credit card - It is insane the number of personal expenses that Rep. Hunter has "accidentally" paid for with money that was supposed to be for his reelection. He keeps using his campaign credit card to buy stuff for himself and then later claiming it was mistake. And the purchases he's made have ranged from the mundane to the hilariously random. Hunter used campaign money to pay for his new garage door; to cover the lunch plan at his kids' private school; and to foot the bill for some oral surgery. He spent $361 in campaign money at a surf and skate shop. And his son somehow used the campaign account to buy over $1,300 in video games. Is this a sign that Hunter is particularly corrupt? Honestly, I kind of doubt it. He's probably just assumes he can get away with it like most of his colleagues.
Hunter saved tuna melts - The United States gets 60 percent of its tuna from a section of the Pacific Ocean between Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. But some American fishermen recently lost access to the area because they couldn't afford the treaty fees that they usually pay to nations in the region. Rep. Hunter represents a California district with lots of tuna fishermen, so he authored a bill threatening to pull $21 million in foreign aid from the 15 countries that would collect fees under the treaty. Understandably, the countries agreed to lower their tuna fees so as not to lose out on that sweet, sweet American cash. So if you love tuna melts, which I do, you have Hunter to thank for preserving their widespread availability.
Congresspeople tend to be boring. Whether it's vaping or battlefield cigars, Hunter has at least found some intriguing issues to focus on. I'm not saying that's any reason to support him. But you’ve got to appreciate politicians who find a way to keep the often mundane politics of the House of Representatives interesting.