Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Who Are These Guys?

Someday soon the public might find out about Brent Wilkes (a.k.a. Co-conspirator #1) in the case of former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham. With Cunningham cooperating with federal investigators, it is only a matter of time before the details of Wilkes business spill out.

Wilkes' flagship company, ADCS Incorporate, appears to be a legitimate business enterprise. It is housed in an impressive building in a San Diego business park. ADCS routinely posted job openings on its website. In fact until a short time ago the ADCS website was what one would expect from a fully function technology oriented company. Today that website is a place holder, a single page with no links nor any business function.

Until the public disclosure of his involvement with the Cunningham scandal, Brent Wilkes appears to be a big time entrepreneur, spinning out new companies and technologies at a rapid pace. Today, it appears that most of the new companies Wilkes spun off are just storefronts. Billing addresses in search of government clients. Clients, no doubt generated by "earmarks" from Duke Cunningham and other powerful Republican members of Congress.

Much like Cunningham's other major benefactor, Mitchell Wade and his MZM Incorporated, Wilkes business was apparently trolling for government money and then building a business around that money. MZM and Wilkes' companies received government contracts, with little oversight and for which, to this day, there has been no accounting relative to the services provides and their use to the agencies that paid for those services.

Wilkes' lobbying arm, Group W Advisors, has some interesting connections and defines the essence of Wilkes' business almost as well as his up-coming federal indictment will.

"Brent R. Wilkes, President and Founder of Group W Advisors, has 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill as an advocate for companies in many diverse industries such as bio-tech, defense and intelligence...

Association and Advocacy Development- Mr. Wilkes has also succeeded in the creation and on-going management of an association of like-minded corporations with the goal of developing advocacies within the Federal Government. He has guided this association by creating an effective education platform for the purposes of gleaning congressional funding for pilot projects and multiple year plus-ups of existing appropriations.

This association, in 8 years, has been involved with appropriations totaling $120 million. Mr. Wilkes has key contacts and relationships in the House and Senate, the White House and all parts of the Executive Branch." (emphasis mine)

In essence, Wilkes created a string of companies whose purpose was to the "gleaning of congressional funding."

Over at Connonfire, Joseph Cannon has done an excellent job pulling together information regarding Wilkes and his "association of like-minded corporations."

In Part 1: Wilkes - the invisible empire, Cannon looks at several of Wilkes' "businesses" and reminds us that a website does not a company make.

"Remember the go-go days of the internet? Remember when a snazzy web page could make a tiny, under-financed company appear to be a massive conglomerate -- even when the firm conducted little actual business?

Update that scenario to the post-9/11 era, and you have the Wilkes corporation. Apparently, they did provide the military with document services -- which means, basically, that they scanned a lot of hard-copy pages that had been yellowing in file drawers. For example -- and this may be the only example -- ADCS worked on a project involving digitizing documents related to the building of the Panama Canal.

And Brent Wilkes' wife Regina had her own catering enterprise.

If you can discover anything else of practical value that the Wilkes family of firms actually did, let me know."

In Part 2: Deeper into the Wilkes /MZM scandals , Cannon looks at the means that Wilkes used to distribute money to his congressional allies.

"The truth: Wilkes was a mechanism by which public funds earmarked for national defense were funneled to G.O.P. candidates and causes."

Cannon looks at the strange history of Wilkes' company, Mirror Labs, which shares the same address as Wilkes' ADCS PAC, which funneled money to congressional Republicans.

"I believe that, for all practical purposes, there is no Mirror Labs, although a firm by that name may well have performed an actual service at one time. So where did the money go? When that nice fat check filled with taxpayer dollars was sent to 15092 Avenue of Science, who opened it? And what did they do with the money?

Here is the organization that really has -- or had -- offices at that address: ADCS PAC. That's where the money went."

Cannon goes on to highlight the efforts of California Representatives Duncan Hunter (CA-52) and Jerry Lewis (CA-41) in insuring the two way flow of money between the United States Treasury and their campaign coffers was secure.

"Did all these pols understand the ultimate source of the funds? Perhaps not. However, we know that Duncan Hunter -- chairman of the House Armed Services Committee -- was a big ADCS pusher...

And then there's Republican Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, who ordered continued funding of ADCS even after the DOD raised objections.

Obviously, Hunter and Lewis must go under the microscope. Even so, you're missing the point if you waste much time castigating the above-named politicians for receiving the money. What is significant is the device itself -- using "false fronts" to translate IRS-collected revenues into Republican campaign commercials."

Cannon finishes this second piece with an examination of the similar tactics used by Mitchell Wade at MZM to insure payments were made to the members of congress who insured funding to Wade's enterprise. There is no doubt that MZM operated in the same way as Wilkes' business.

From its inception, MZM was a shell company chasing after government business. Remember, MZM's first government contract was for furniture for the White House and then all of a sudden MZM is a prime government contractor in some kind of secure data management business. Doesn't that seem odd?

I guess it's not so odd, if you have the right contacts and you know how the procurement process works and you have the means to grease the right palms in congress, anything is possible.

Should we just wait for the indictments? Or, should we try to find out how many more Wilkes and Wades there are out there stealing our tax dollars. Clearly, no one in the Republican controlled congress is going to mount a real investigation.