By Roxana Tiron - 12/06/05 12:00 AM EST
Among K Street’s hundreds of lobbying shops, Group W Advisors stands out because it does not exist in the virtual universe. Attempts to load the lobbying group’s website result in a message: “This virtual directory does not allow contents to be listed.”
But that message was not always there. Just weeks ago, the website was up and running, boasting that the company has been instrumental in introducing digital-document technology to the Department of Defense. The website also said Congress doled out $500 million for a congressionally generated pilot program for document automation, according to an article published by the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this year.
These days, however, the firm may not want to boast about its lucrative government contracts, for Group W Advisors is owned by Brent Wilkes, who has become entangled in the bribery allegations that last week forced the resignation of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).
Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from executives at two defense contractors, MZM Inc. and ADCS Inc., which received millions of dollars in government defense contracts for its document-automation technology.
ADCS is also owned by Wilkes. While ADCS Inc. won contracts, Group W Advisors was employing Alexander Strategy Group, a well-known conduit to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), to lobby on defense appropriations. Group W Advisors has paid Alexander Strategy Group $620,000 since 2002.
In July 2004, Group W, also a defense consulting firm linked to Wilkes, hired Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal to represent its interests on Capitol Hill. But in an unusual move, the law firm terminated the contract on Jan. 1, 2005.
Group W had hired Sonnenschein Nath & Rosethal to lobby for 2005 defense appropriations for shipboard acoustic technology, according to a well-placed former congressional staffer.
This technology received funding in the classified version of the defense-spending bill, he said. A company called Acoustical Communications Systems (ACS) develops that technology. ACS and ADCS share the same address in suburban San Diego, according to lobby disclosure forms and ACS’s website. Group W Advisors was also lobbying on ACS’s behalf.
Group W Advisors is part of Wilkes Corp., an umbrella company that encompasses at least 13 other firms, including ADCS and Group W Transportation which, over the years, has flown several members of Congress to privately funded events.
Group W Advisors is registered as a defense and intelligence consulting firm specializing in defense appropriations and budget issues, according to lobbying disclosure forms.
All media calls to Wilkes Corp. are directed to Wilkes lawyer Michael Lipman.
When asked to describe the kind of work Group W Advisors did on behalf of its clients, Lipman said: “[I] can’t explain the kind of work that they do … He [Wilkes] is in the middle of a criminal investigation, so we are not discussing this.”
Among other companies, Group W has represented ADCS, Perfect Wave Technologies, MailSafe, Pure Aqua Technologies, Archer Defense, Al Dust Properties, Group W Holdings and Mirror Labs, all part of Wilkes Corp.
The main website for Wilkes Corp. does not list any of these companies. The Hill found a listing of these companies in an employment ad posted on www .monster.com for positions open at ADCS.
The Wilkes Corp. a website, provides little information. Its home page describes Wilkes Corp. as providing “leadership, knowledge and personnel for technology and defense-related corporations.”
Other Group W Advisors lobbying clients either have no websites or else sites that provide scant information about the nature of their businesses.
Pure Aqua Technologies, for example, lists only a phone and fax number. Meanwhile, the website for MailSafe Inc. gives the same message as the site for Group W Advisors: “The virtual directory does not allow contents to be listed.”
Yet another Group W Advisors client, GTS Globalift, also does not have a website, nor is it listed in business telephone directories.
Alexander Strategy Group’s lobbyists who represented Group W Advisors include: Ed Buckham, Rep. Tom DeLay’s (Texas) former chief-of staff, and Tony Rudy and Karl Gallant, who also worked for DeLay, as well as Terry Haines, the former staff director of the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio).
Several calls to Alexander Strategy Group were not returned by press time.
Wilkes has been named “co-conspirator No. 1” by Justice Department officials in the criminal investigation into the Cunningham bribery scandal. Wilkes is suspected of giving more than $630,000 in cash and favors to Cunningham in exchange for landing lucrative appropriations earmarks and federal contracts. He has not been charged with a crime.