Report: Cunningham admits soliciting bribes, prostitutes in exchange for earmarks
Disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham described to the FBI an elaborate bribes-for-favors scheme in which he solicited cash and prostitutes from defense contractors in exchange for wasteful federal earmarks, Copley News Service reports.
The San Diego Republican was interviewed by the FBI and other investigators in February at the federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., where he is serving more than eight years after admitting accepting $2.4 million in bribes and gifts. The depiction of Cunningham that emerges from the interviews, an 11-page summary of which were obtained by Copley News Service, shows he was the mastermind behind the quid pro quo arrangement.
"Cunningham was very much the initiator of his corrupt actions, demanding bribes, accepting envelopes with cash and displaying an insatiable appetite for more money, more cars, more drink, more fine food and more expensive goods," report George E. Condon Jr. and Marcus Stern.
Among Cunningham's admissions were that defense contractor Brent Wilkes provided the then-congressman with prostitutes during a vacation in Hawaii. Cunningham told the FBI that he was upset Wilkes got the "younger and cuter" call girl and said he was "somewhat embarrassed on this occasion because he had some difficulty in completing intercourse."
Wilkes faces 30 counts in two separate indictments, including charges that he gave Cunningham $600,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for more than $80 million in federal defense contracts. His trials are expected to begin this fall.
The interviews paint a picture that contrasts sharply with the image Cunningham sought to create after his downfall. In a letter released after his conviction, he said he was unable to resist the coaxing of corrupt defense contractors and merely accepted "gifts" but never sold his office.
On the contrary, Cunningham admitted to the FBI that he was intimately involved in soliciting bribes from the contractors.
He and Wilkes jointly concocted a cover story that allowed Wilkes to give Cunningham $100,000. Ostensibly, Wilkes purchased Cunningham's boat with the money, but Wilkes knew there would be "no actual change in ownership" of the yacht, according to the FBI interviews. He also admitted demanding regular envelopes full of cash, which he called "maintenance money," that were delivered at least once to his office at the US Capitol.
A member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Cunningham was well placed to deliver federal dollars to his benefactors. He admitted misleading congressional ethics officials and working around objections of other lawmakers to secure the multimillion-dollar earmarks.
"Cunningham stated that, by 2000, he had already been receiving numerous benefits from Wilkes that included such things as vacation trips, liquor, cash/maintenance money," the FBI interview summary states. "According to Cunningham, in return for these benefits, he had been helping Wilkes/ADCS in their efforts to secure government contracts."