Monday, January 16, 2006

Fishing With the Duke

At the American Prospect, Laura Rozen, gives us a piece titled, The Duke of Deception.

Rozen says that there is more to come from the on-going federal investigation of Cunningham's bribery and corruption case.

"But in the Cunningham case nothing is quite what it seems. Two months have passed since he pled guilty to taking more bribes than any other legislator in U.S. history, yet no more indictments have been issued, not even against the four people described as “co-conspirators” in the Cunningham plea agreement. No other shoes have dropped -- until now."

Rozen goes on to talk about the contention from Time that Cunningham wore a wire and that he may have recorded conversations with some of the corporate types involved in his bribery conspiracy.

"The implication ... is clear: Prosecutors have further targets in their crosshairs beyond Cunningham. In law enforcement, the standard procedure is for prosecutors to haul in the little fish first in order to net the big fish later. So there was something peculiar about the Cunningham case, where such normal logic had seemingly been turned on its head. Here the big fish -- a ranking Representative -- had pled guilty before the businessmen from whom he had admitted taking bribes. What the Time report suggests was that Cunningham might not be the biggest fish in this case after all."

A bigger fish than Cunningham? Duke Cunningham was a political bottom-feeder, but he certainly seems like a pretty big fish. Who could be a bigger fish than the Duke, Laura?

"The Cunningham case has revealed several lawmakers worthy of investigative scrutiny. Two men described but not named as co-conspirators in the original indictment -- Brent Wilkes, the chairman of San Diego-based defense contractor ADCS Inc., and Mitchell J. Wade, the founder and until recently chairman and president of defense and intelligence contractor MZM Inc. -- donated “more than a million dollars in the last ten years to a roster of politicians,” including contributions from their employees and company political action committees (PACs), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In some instances, those donations seemed to track closely with appropriations recommendations from politicians that benefited Wilkes’ and Wade’s companies."

Who got money from Wilkes and Wade? Lots of people.

"Among the pols of potential interest to investigators is Representative Tom DeLay, whose Texans for a Republican Majority fund-raising committee received a $15,000 donation in September 2002 from Perfect Wave Technologies, a subsidiary of Wilkes’ corporate umbrella, the Wilkes Corporation. Through another Wilkes’ subsidiary, Perfect Wave also hired a lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group, set up by DeLay’s former Chief of Staff Ed Buckham, and which employed DeLay’s wife Christine, to lobby successfully for Perfect Wave to receive a Navy contract. In December, the Austin, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle -- already pursuing a campaign-finance case against DeLay -- subpoenaed documents from Wilkes, Perfect Wave Technologies, ADCS, and associated companies. Popping up again on the radar as well is Congressman Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who, like DeLay, is simultaneously under investigation in the rapidly expanding Indian gaming case that has led to guilty pleas by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and PR Executive Michael Scanlon. On October 1, 2002, Ney inexplicably entered praise of a San Diego-based charity headed by Wilkes, the Tribute to Heroes Foundation, into the Congressional Record -- the same kind of service Ney performed for his benefactor Abramoff on more than one occasion."

Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, with the Alexander Strategy Group as a side dish? Those are bigger fish than the Duke. But wait, there are more fish to fry here.

"Extensive reporting published by the San Diego Union-Tribune indicates that several other Republicans in southern California’s congressional delegation may have drawn the attention of investigators in the Cunningham case. Among them are Representative Duncan Hunter, identified by a Defense Department Inspector General report -- along with Cunningham -- as actively intervening with the Pentagon to try to award a contract to a document-conversion company that had given him tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for a program the Pentagon did not request or consider a priority; Representative Jerry Lewis, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, on which Cunningham sat; and former Congressman-turned-lobbyist Bill Lowery."

Duncan Hunter and Jerry Lewis, too. What kind of wine would do this meal justice?