Monday, November 28, 2005

Cookie Jar. Hand. You Get The Picture

Thomas Jefferson said, "I have not observed men's honesty to increase with their riches." Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham said, "Not guilty...OK, guilty."

A hearing in Cunningham's case will be held in San Diego and two people close to the investigation said Cunningham would enter a guilty plea to conspiracy and tax charges, and admit to taking $2.4 million in bribes. "Well, 'guilty' has such negative connotations," said Cunningham's attorney, Lee Blalack. "Let's just say my client will acquiesce to the description of his negative innocentosity."

In November 2003, Cunningham sold his home to defense contractor Mitchell Wade for $1,675,000. Wade put the house back on the market and sold it after nearly a year for $975,000 — a loss of $700,000 in one of the nation's hottest housing markets. "Hey. I'm a defense contractor, not a real estate agent," Wade said. "I just know about blowing things up."

Prosecutors said Cunningham admitted to receiving at least $2.4 million in bribes paid to him by several conspirators through a variety of methods, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations. "I thought they were part of the benefits package," Cunningham told reporters. "I guess I should have asked someone, besides Tom DeLay."

Wade also let Cunningham live rent-free on his yacht and his firm, MZM Inc., donated generously to Cunningham's campaigns. "Well, he had to live somewhere," Wade said. "I had bought his house for crying out loud. Besides, he did handyman stuff for me on the boat."

Around the same time, MZM was winning valuable defense contracts when Cunningham sat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense dollars. "I told you he was a handy man," Wade explained.

"I did the worst thing an elected official can do," Cunningham said. "I got mean I enriched myself through my position and violated the trade...umm...the trip...heck Carol, what's that word," Cunningham showed a statement to U.S. Attorney Carol Lam who said "trust."

"Right. Trust. I violated the trust of those who elected me. OK, there's your statement. Can I go now? Lam then whispered something in the Congressman's ear.

Shortly after Cunningham announced that he wouldn't seek re-election. "Hard to get to roll call votes when you're in jail," He told reporters.

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