Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday's Duke Dish

Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's corruption watch. Friday morning headlines:

Bribery law cited in move to block
Cunningham home sale

"The Rancho Santa Fe home that U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham purchased for $2.5 million was bought with money allegedly obtained in violation of federal bribery laws, according to a filing last month in a forfeiture proceeding against the congressman.

[...] Notice of the suit, most of which is under court seal and not available to the public or Cunningham's attorneys, came in the public filing of a lis pendens, a legal notice that serves as notification of the civil suit and indicates that the government has an interest in the Cunningham property. The notice also lets prospective buyers know that they could risk losing the property to the government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah Bussell wrote that the action stemmed from the government's desire for the home "in that said property is derived from proceeds traceable to a violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 201, and is forfeitable pursuant to title 18." Section 201 of the code governs bribery and corruption of public officials."

Pentagon official tells press Cunningham
pressured him to award contract

"Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Louis A. Kratz, who in 1999 had called for a government audit of ADCS, told The Washington Post in an article published Thursday that Cunningham and ADCS owner Brent Wilkes had called him in an effort to influence his office to direct federal dollars to ADCS for a contract it held to provide computer services for a government project.

Kratz could not be reached for comment Thursday. A separate source close to the ongoing federal investigation of Cunningham's financial ties to a defense contractor confirmed for the North County Times that Cunningham had written a letter to the Defense Department in an attempt to secure the work for ADCS.

The ADCS contract and others later became the target of an audit by the Office of the Inspector General after competing firms alleged that the government had used favoritism and acted inappropriately in awarding the contracts, according to a copy of the audit report obtained by the North County Times. The report, issued in 2000, also stated that two unnamed members of Congress had pressured the Defense Department to fund work by a company to digitalize engineering documents on the Panama Canal."

Group calls for Cunningham's immediate resignation

"After his egregious, unethical and likely unlawful conduct, we do not believe he can ably fight impending corruption charges and perform his duties as U.S. Representative to the 50th District of California. We, the undersigned, ask that Congressman Cunningham resign," the petitions read.

Spotlights ablaze, news camera crews trailed North County Unity Coalition communications director Matt O'Connor as he walked into Cunningham's office on West Valley Parkway on Thursday afternoon.

"How are you today?" O'Connor asked a startled receptionist, before handing her the signed petitions. After saying that Cunningham was not in the office and accepting the signed petitions, she added that she would have no comment.

The head of the Washington-based congressional watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also addressed reporters at Thursday's news conference. She said that she had decided to come to Escondido for two reasons: to support the call for Cunningham's immediate resignation and to appeal to voters to pressure their Washington representatives into calling for a House Ethics Committee investigation into Cunningham.

"Mr. Cunningham's conduct is so beyond the pale that nothing less than an immediate resignation will suffice," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. A formal federal prosecutor, Sloan had worked for several Democratic House members prior to joining the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C."

Duke Cunningham - poster boy for the Republican Culture of Corruption. Does he deserve to continue to represent the 50th District?