Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, October 07, 2006

  Foley, Duke Cunningham, & Brent Wilkes

Rather incredibly, during the last month the only news story on Watergate II (or 'Hookergate') comes from Australia. That dearth of news coverage ought to stop, if only because this huge scandal epitomizes the Republicans' rampant corruption and reckless disregard for national security.

Perhaps we can help to put Cunningham, Wilkes, and Foggo back in the news by linking them to Foley. The alleged orgies at the Watergate and Westin hotels in DC are said to have been purely Republican affairs which continued for years with the involvement and collusion of top GOP officials. Though apparently the parties were well known, nobody dared to blow the whistle.

More to the point, these sexual libertines were undermining in private the very things they made a public show of upholding--the security of the nation.

This story blossomed and withered quickly in spring, but there's no reason why the autumn rains can't revive it. And right now, the bad news is absolutely pouring down on the GOP.

There are many parallels between Watergate II and Foleygate, which would make it possible to interest journalists in the older scandal. But are there any hooks for reporters to hang a story upon?

Well, for one thing, Mark Foley served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, one of the swamps of corruption in Tom DeLay's House of Representatives. Several Republican members of Ways and Means, such as fellow Floridian Clay Shaw, have received large donations from the DeLay and Abramoff tag team, or from Brent Wilkes. (Shaw has also received funds from Foley's PAC.) Furthermore, just last year DeLay was instrumental in getting one of his main acolytes elevated to the committee--NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds. Reynolds and Nancy Johnson, the third most senior Republican on the committee, are among the most corrupt members of the House. (Listen to Chris Murphy on Nancy Johnson's involvment in the Medicare Bill.) So Foley was well positioned to wade into that particular swamp if he wished.

It's far from clear how involved Foley was in the rampant corruption associated with the Ways and Means Committee, but it would not be surprising to discover that he had contacts with somebody like Brent Wilkes, who seemed to play all the angles in DC. A large part of Foley's power came from the big sums his PAC spread around to other representatives. His modest PAC receipts tripled after he was appointed to Ways and Means, and he's positively swimming in money from Health Insurance PACS.

Besides, though he has the reputation of a fop, Foley was willing to play along with the most unconscionable and viscious elements in the Republican party. For example, last year he introduced H.J.RES.41, a Constitutional Amendment that would have stripped citizenship from children whose parents are not also citizens or legal permanent residents. To my mind, Foley's bill was very low blow indeed, so to speak. It would be worth knowing what else he stooped to during his years in Congress.

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In any case, whether or not journalists are willing to try to tie Watergate II into the Foley scandal, suddenly some of the main actors are making it easy to refocus attention on their exploits.

First, there is the whinging letter that Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison to a reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune, which reports upon it today:

In a handwritten letter to the reporter who exposed his corruption, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham portrays life in prison as an agonizing time of regret, anger and bitterness toward those he blames for his downfall.

"I hurt more than anyone could imagine," Cunningham wrote from federal prison in North Carolina....

"Each time you print it hurts my family and now I have lost them along with everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," he wrote. "I am human not an animal to keep whipping."

The quality of mercy is not strained. The quality of mercy is not strained. The quality of mercy is not strained.

It is a minimum security prison that Cunningham languishes in. There, I said it.

[Cunningham] aims his sharpest barbs at one of his co-conspirators....

"[Mitchell] Wade is the absolute devil and his lawyer is trying to save his donkey," wrote Cunningham, reflecting his bitterness at what Wade has been telling federal investigators and the U.S. Attorney's Office....

Noting that he "cannot discuss the case," Cunningham nonetheless said that "90 percent" of the case against him came from Wade, downplaying the role of another of his alleged co-conspirators, Brent Wilkes, founder of Poway-based ADCS Inc.

And what precisely has Wade contributed that is new? Inquiring minds, and all that.

Although Copley News is a fairly small operation with little reach into the American news media, the story of Cunningham's hand-written, self-pitying letter is bizarre enough that other news bureaus might just pick it up...especially if we lend a hand drawing attention to it.

To complement it, there is the news also from today that Cunningham's wife has admitted to guilt in tax evasion but, rather remarkably, will not be prosecuted for it. Nor will she be held accountable for repaying the full amount the couple owes the IRS.

Nancy Cunningham also admitted wrongdoing in the corruption case but will not be prosecuted as a tax cheat under an agreement with prosectors announced yesterday.

She agreed to give up $760,000 in equity in the house to pay a portion of the nearly $1.7 million the couple owe in back taxes, interest and penalties....

"Claimant (Nancy Cunningham) admits and acknowledges that the United States' agreement not to seek criminal charges against her is not based on a lack of evidence that she committed criminal tax offenses," according to the agreement filed yesterday in San Diego federal court.

"However, in light of her willingness to accept financial responsibility for her actions, her willingness to cooperate with the United States' ongoing investigations, and the remaining terms and conditions of this agreement, the United States has elected not to pursue criminal charges against Claimant."

Some taxpayers might consider that deal to be grossly lenient. They certainly might like to know more about what that cooperation with the ongoing investigation actually entails. And given that the story happens to coincide with the ridiculous prison note from the Duke, I'd say this is an open invitation to revisit all of the Cunninghams' corrupt practices.

Meanwhile, back at Brent Wilkes' 97,000 square foot ranch corporate headquarters, ADCS Inc., we learn that two financial companies recently filed lawsuits against him for breach of contract.

The lawsuits are only the latest problems for Wilkes.

When Cunningham pleaded guilty late last year to his role in a massive bribery scheme, court documents identified four unnamed co-conspirators, two of whom had allegedly provided Cunningham with more than $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for his help in steering tens of millions in government contracts to their companies.

Sources close to the investigation identified Wilkes as one of those co-conspirators, something that one of his attorneys acknowledged to reporters in the weeks following Cunningham's March sentencing.

In fact, Wilkes is the number one co-conspirator. By a curious coincidence, Wilkes' company has fallen apart since Cunningham was exposed, as his lawyer notes:

[Michael] Lipman said the scandal surrounding Cunningham has been "very difficult" financially for Wilkes.

"It has taken a toll on the business," Lipman said. "He is attempting to keep things afloat and move forward."

A worthy "Hirohito moment" ("Despite the best that has been done by everyone . . . the war situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage.").

Otherwise, though, these days it is all whinging all the time from the crowd involved in Watergate II. I'd like to think that we could convince some national reporters that the scandal deserves another look or two.

And how far has the FBI investigation progressed since May, anyhow?


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