California Congressman Resigns After Admitting He Took Bribes
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 28, 2005
Filed at 2:30 p.m. ET
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Rep. Randy ”Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges, admitting taking $2.4 million in bribes in a case that grew from an investigation into the sale of his home to a wide-ranging conspiracy involving payments in cash, vacations and antiques.
Randy Cunningham “enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there,” U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said.
Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004. Cunningham answered ”yes, Your Honor” when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.
Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, resigned after his guilty plea. He had announced in July that he wouldn’t seek re-election next year.
House Ethics rules say that any lawmaker convicted of a felony no longer should vote or participate in committee work. Under Republican caucus rules, Cunningham also would lose his chairmanship of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence.
The former Vietnam War flying ace is known on Capitol Hill for his interest in defense issues and his occasional temperamental outbursts.
After the hearing, Cunningham was taken away for fingerprinting. He will be released on his own recognizance until a Feb. 27 sentencing hearing. He could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
He also agreed to forfeit to the government his Rancho Santa Fe home, more than $1.8 million in cash and antiques and rugs.
In a statement, prosecutors said Cunningham admitted to receiving at least $2.4 million in bribes paid to him by several conspirators through a variety of methods, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.
”He did the worst thing an elected official can do — he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there,” U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. The statement did not identify the conspirators.
The case began when authorities started investigating whether Cunningham and his wife, Nancy, used the proceeds from the $1,675,000 sale to defense contractor Mitchell Wade to buy a $2.55 million mansion in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe. Wade put the Del Mar house back on the market and sold it after nearly a year for $975,000 — a loss of $700,000.
He drew little notice outside his San Diego-area district before the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last June that he’d sold the home to Wade.
Cunningham’s pleas came amid a series of GOP scandals. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas had to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in a campaign finance case; a stock sale by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being looked at by regulators; and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was indicted in the CIA leak case.
from the LATimes:
…Cunningham got the inflated price from defense contractor Mitchell Wade “in return for being influenced in the performance of his official acts as a public official” in violation of federal law, prosecutors stated in the court papers, filed in August.
Cunningham was on two House committees that reviewed the Pentagon budget and influenced the flow of defense contracts.
Wade’s former company, MZM Inc., which Cunningham has said he championed, has received $163 million in federal contracts Äî mostly for classified defense projects involving the gathering and analysis of intelligence.
The allegations against Cunningham involved the sale of the Del Mar Heights house in November 2003. Wade paid Cunningham $1.67 million for the house, then sold it eight months later for a $700,000 loss.
A month after selling the Del Mar Heights home, the Cunninghams bought a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom house in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe for $2.55 million. Prosecutors alleged that the couple made a $1.4-million profit on the Del Mar Heights sale, which they used to “buy up” to Rancho Santa Fe.
In one of his few previous public statements, Cunningham has called Wade a close friend. Part of the federal probe involved the fact that Cunningham has lived aboard Wade’s 42-foot boat, renamed the Duke Stir, while in Washington.