By Elana Schor - 02/14/07 12:00 AM EST
A federal grand jury yesterday charged two allies of imprisoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) with fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, reopening a scandal that crimped the GOP’s electoral fortunes and fueling debate over the controversial dismissals of several U.S. attorneys.
The CIA’s No. 3 until he resigned last spring, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes face at least 11 felony counts in San Diego stemming from their illicit courtship of Cunningham. Federal authorities say Wilkes’s web of businesses reaped federal contracts while Cunningham served as a House appropriator, with the then-lawmaker netting a litany of lavish gifts in return.
A second indictment charged Wilkes with steering more than $700,000 in bribes to Cunningham, and a New York mortgage banker with obstruction of justice for allegedly masking that Wilkes paid off Cunningham’s mortgage. Cunningham’s earmarking sent $70 million to companies owned by Wilkes and his associates, according to an October House Intelligence Committee report.
“High government positions and powerful connections should not be tickets to corrupt self-enrichment,” U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who spearheaded the ongoing probe of Cunningham’s network, said in a statement. “The public trust is not for sale.”
Foggo and Wilkes “created and used shell companies and straw men to conceal … Wilkes’s financial interest and role in CIA contracts, and to launder money obtained from CIA contracts,” the first grand jury indictment stated. The indictment against Wilkes and his mortgage banker expanded on the tales of influence-buying that — along with the case against imprisoned GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff — drove Democratic outcries for ethics reform and helped the party regain the majority last year.
The second indictment asserted that Cunningham, who served on the Appropriations subcommittee for defense spending, “agreed to use his public office and take other official action to influence the ... Congress’s authorization and appropriation of funds in a manner that would benefit” Wilkes’s company, ADCS, and MZM, another contracting business owned by Mitchell Wade.
Cunningham’s favor-trading with Wilkes began as early as September 1996, according to the indictment, when the then-lawmaker began pushing for funding of a Pentagon document-conversion program that would benefit Wilkes. That year Wilkes began treating Cunningham to thousands of dollars in meals at K Street’s favorite bo