Sunday, February 05, 2006

Abramoff Lite - Brent Wilkes

Brent Wilkes once boasted to a potential business partner that for a $1.5 million dollar investment in lobbying, he could achieve a nearly 1000% return in profits. Sunday's San Diego Union Tribune continues its fine reporting on Brent Wilkes and the various members of the Republican Congress on his payroll.

"From 1995 to 2005, as Wilkes got federal funding for his family of small defense companies, he steered more than $600,000 in contributions to lawmakers and their political action committees.

The biggest beneficiary was House Appropriations Committee member John Doolittle from the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, who received at least $82,000 from Wilkes, his close relatives, employees and business partners. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of Redlands received $60,000. Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, got $39,200."

These are Wilkes' "legal" political contributions. During the same time frame, Wilkes was paying former congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, $630,000 in bribes.

Wilkes had a profound understanding of the procurement process and the roll that members of congress such as Doolittle, Lewis, Hunter and Cunningham could play in insuring that his ventures got public money without the distractions of competitive bidding or even without evidence of demand for their products from the Department of Defense.

The UT article chronicles the growth of Wilkes' flagship company, ADCS, during the same period of time in which Wilkes and his associates were throwing money at the members of congress who could do the most to help insure that ADCS got millions in earmarked funds. It didn't bother Wilkes or his allies in Congress that no one needed or wanted ADCS's product.

"The military never asked for the ADCS projects. In fact, in 2000 the Pentagon's inspector general blasted the company's biggest project, a $9.7 million contract to convert documents in Panama. The report said the program was created under pressure from two congressmen, whom Pentagon procurement officials have identified as Cunningham and Hunter.

After the report was released, federal funding for ADCS's document conversion work dropped from more than $22.8 million in fiscal 2001 to $10.4 million in fiscal 2002."

With the Department of Defense resisting addition wasted tax dollars on ADCS, Wilkes looked for another means of prying some tax dollars loose. He continued to use his California connection of Doolittle, Lewis, Cunningham and Hunter, but he realized that for his next round of earmarks, a heavier hitter would be required.

"As ADCS lost steam, Wilkes began looking for a new product to win federal contracts. What he found in early 2002 was a sound wave technology being developed by scientists associated with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.

The technology, which was being prepared for commercial use, already had drawn the attention of Poway businessman Max Gelwix. At the time, Gelwix was president of Eco-Soil Systems, a company that developed soil treatments for farms and golf greens.

Gelwix had met with some of the scientists and thought their discovery could be used to weed out background noises from electronic communications on the battlefield, in tanks or on aircraft carriers.

Wilkes, who lived in the same Poway neighborhood as Gelwix, offered to use his contacts in Congress to help Gelwix get military contracts.

Wilkes soon introduced Gelwix to Tom DeLay.

On March 24, 2002, the two businessmen and several of their associates joined DeLay for a three-day golf tour that hopped from Torrey Pines to Bighorn Country Club in Palm Desert to the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

Within two weeks, Wilkes and his wife, Regina, Wilkes' lobbyist and nephew, Joel Combs, along with Gelwix and Eco-Soil Chairman William Bain Adams Jr. donated a total of $25,000 to DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, or ARMPAC."


On June 14, 2002, Gelwix founded PerfectWave to develop the sound wave technology. The joint venture gave Wilkes 51 percent of the company.

That same day, the DeLay campaign cashed a $1,000 check from lobbyist Combs. Less than a month later, Wilkes hired the Alexander Strategy Group – a lobbying firm with close ties to DeLay – to help win appropriations from defense and intelligence agencies. Between 2002 and 2005, Wilkes paid the firm $630,000.

The lobbyists assigned to Wilkes' account included Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, who founded the firm; Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff; and Karl Gallant, the head of ARMPAC."


On Oct. 10, 2002, the House passed a budget containing the first PerfectWave earmark, totaling $1 million. The funding was to go to Wilkes' flagship company, ADCS, as the prime contractor, with PerfectWave as a subcontractor.

The next week, Wilkes and his associates gave $7,000 to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Fresno, on the Ways and Means Committee; $6,000 to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the third-highest ranking member of Congress; $3,000 to Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, on the Appropriations Committee, and $2,000 to Doolittle, a key backer of the PerfectWave earmark.

The day after President Bush signed the budget, Wilkes gave $10,000 to one of Doolittle's political action committees."

This is the Republican Party at work. Men like Doolittle, Lewis, Hunter, Cunningham and DeLay have no problems cutting programs for the poor, the elderly, veterans, etc.; but when a Republican rainmaker appears and offers them campaign contributions in exchange for slopping some taxpayers dollars his way, they fall all over themselves to make it happen.

Republican apologists will tell us that the campaign system is to blame, not the candidates. To get elected these men needed money and they had to work with men like Brent Wilkes to get it.

Guess what? That's a load of crap. Doolittle, Lewis, Hunter, Cunningham and DeLay went out of their way to find men like Brent Wilkes. Republican businessmen, who are as ethically challenged as are they. Men who understood that a "quid pro quo" arrangement didn't have to be formalized in a contract to take place.

Men who enjoyed the opportunities and life style that pay-to-play politics afforded them.