Wednesday, October 05, 2005

For Sale Sign

The San Diego Union Tribune discloses today that, shortly after his appointment to the House intelligence committee in 2001, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham sent a letter to ADCS Inc. founder and chief executive, Brent Wilkes. In his letter, Cunningham informs Wilkes of his desire to work closely with the defense contractor.

"I have long benefited from your expertise on major defense issues before Congress, and have appreciated the opportunity to work with you on key service funding priorities. With my new assignment, I see even greater opportunities to work together in support of our national security and intelligence communities."

Essentially, Duke was letting Wilkes know that he had been given the key to the bank and his close friends and key contributors were now in line for free samples from the vault.

“The recipient of the correspondence was the same Brent Wilkes who helped steer at least $71,500 in campaign contributions to Cunningham between 2000 and 2004. He's also the one who flew Cunningham on his corporate jet on campaign-related trips, including a hunting trip in Idaho and a golf tournament in Hawaii, and hosted fundraisers on the lawmaker's boat in Washington, D.C.”

Cunningham and Wilkes working closely together to make sure the taxpayers get fleeced.

“Watchdog groups say Cunningham's letter to Wilkes, at a minimum, reflects a worrisome relationship between a lawmaker and a friend who happens to be a generous political contributor and businessman making a living off government contracts.

At a minimum, this letter presents an appearance of corruption," said Taylor Lincoln, a government policy analyst at Public Citizen, a public-interest advocacy group. "The notion that Cunningham truly sought insight into national security from citizen Wilkes is seriously damaged by the fact that he has been willing to accept tens of thousands of dollars from Wilkes and Co.”

Cunningham must have sent his “for sale” notices to a lot of companies.

“Several defense contractors in recent weeks have said that Cunningham intervened with Pentagon officials on their behalf, as well as Wilkes'. Cunningham's intervention, they said, had been crucial to securing defense contracts.

One contractor said his company relocated to San Diego specifically to be in Cunningham's district.

After moving to the district, he said, he raised political contributions for Cunningham to ensure the lawmaker's continued support as Pentagon officials decided how to split annual defense appropriations among competing contractors.

Cunningham never directly asked him for money in exchange for support, the executive said. However, he added, a lobbyist he retained made it clear that he should be located in the district and provide contributions.

"We had a lobbyist advising us, but we kind of knew the game," he said. "And if we didn't do it, somebody else was going to, and so we didn't have a whole lot of choice."

I ask this question every time. Why is this crook still in Congress?