Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cunningham Scandal Expands under Scrutiny

If you have not seen the work being conducted by Cannonfire, Sherlock Google and LieparDestin, I suggest you have a look. The investigation, started by Joe Cannon, of Brent Wilkes and his network of what appear to be front companies designed to garner DoD contracts under the guidance of the Duke-stir, aka Randy Cunningham, is turning up some fascinating stuff. Wilkes and partner Mitchell Wade allegedly created an illicit of network of phoney companies all seeminly designed for one purpose: funnelling taxpayer dollars, awarded in the form of DoD contracts, into the coffers of GOP campaigns all across the country.

The recently convicted Cunningham, a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, appears to have been the turnkey mechanism is this scam. And if even half of this is true, it is quite a scam indeed. I'll offer up a few tidbits from the story at MadcowMorningNews, which claims that Cunningham's committee stripped $700 million from the US defense budget and steered it toward's a panoply of Wilkes' front companies whose sole product appears to have been nothing but campaign contributions to many GOP candidates:
Over the course of almost an entire decade, from 1994 to 2001, Cunningham’s Appropriations Committee repeatedly added funding to the Pentagon budget for a previously non-existent (prior to 1995) software company, ADCS, owned by the “Wilkes Corporation,” a private company (natch) owned by San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes.

The money then made a short trip—courtesy the wonders of modern accounting—from one of Brent Wilkes’ pants pocket to another, called “Group W Advisors,” which proceeded to obligingly send hundreds of thousands of dollars in ‘client fees’ annually to The Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying and consulting firm currently under scrutiny in the Justice Department's investigation of Casino Jack Abramoff.

Cunningham was also steering Pentagon money to a second tiny “defense contractor,” MZM Inc, which had the great good fortune to go from zero dollars in Federal contracts to $169 million in two short years, through the simple expedient of indulging Cunningham’s taste for expensive yachts and a new $2 million dollar mansion in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe, California, to go with the trophy wife, also on the payroll.
Truly, this is the stuff of legend. And now we see that the Cunningham bribery charges are entirely related to the Abramoff web and not at all a separate and unrelated incident as had been earlier asserted. Will we see this investigated by the mainstream media? I suspect that the only way that will happen is if a serious prosecutor is assigned and really starts poking around the Cunningham story. But what can we imagine the likelihood of that is? Given that the mainstream media had asserted, without knowing, the Cunningham case was unrelated to the Abramoff scandal, the answer seems clear enough. I always thought it odd that reports of the Cunningham story routinely carried some sort of an "unrelated to the Abramoff investigation" rider.

It seems clear now that Cunnnigham's confession was designed for one thing: to shut down further investigation of his ties to Wilkes and these front companies. Local authorities may have been lulled into to a sense of satisfaction with the guilty plea but it certainly looks like they're being played because it was Duke Cunningham who, in 1997, said that anyone questioning his lobbying actions and DoD contract awards could "go to hell." His contrition carries a great deal of suspicion.


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