Randy "Duke" Cunningham
On November 28, 2005 Cunningham pleaded guilty to graft and resigned from Congress. He admitted taking "$2.4 million in bribes mostly from defense contractors in exchange for government business and other favors."
Ultimately he pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion. On March 3, 2006, Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution.
A special election to fill the vacancy left by Cunningham was held on April 11, 2006, but no single candidate won a simple majority. A new special election was held on June 6, 2006, and Republican Brian Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby 49% to 45%.  Bilbray will serve the rest of Cunningham's term. The two will face off again in the general election to be held on November 7, 2006.
He is married to Nancy Cunningham.
"Randy "Duke" Cunningham was born December 8, 1941, in Los Angeles, California. After earning his bachelors degree in 1964 and his masters in education in 1965 from the University of Missouri, Cunningham began his career as an educator and a coach at Hinsdale (Ill.) High School. He later expanded his education experience as the Dean of the School of Aviation at National University in San Diego."
Cunningham served in the U.S. Navy 1966 until his retirement in 1987. He "became one of the most highly decorated pilots in the Vietnam War. As the first fighter ace of the war, Cunningham was nominated for the Medal of Honor, received the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, fifteen Air Medals, the Purple Heart, and several other decorations." After returning from Vietnam in 1972, he became an instructor at the Navy's TOPGUN school for fighter pilots at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.
In 1985 Cunningham earned a Master of Business Administration from National University, a San Diego night school. He retired from the Navy in 1987 as a commander, settling in Del Mar, a suburb of San Diego. He became nationally known as a CNN commentator on naval aircraft in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War.
Cunningham's visibility as a CNN commentator led several Republican leaders to approach him about running in what was then the 44th District. The district had been held for eight years by Democrat Jim Bates, and was considered the most Democratic district in the San Diego area. However, Bates was bogged down in a scandal involving charges of sexual harassment. Cunningham won the Republican nomination in 1990 and hammered Bates about the scandal, promising to be "a congressman we can be proud of." He won by just one percentage point.
After the 1990 census, redistricting renumbered the 44th District as the 51st and created the 50th District, splitting off a significant portion of San Diego County. Even though the 51st District (renumbered as the 50th after the 2000 census) is only the third most Republican-leaning district in the county, Cunningham was reelected six times with no less than 55 percent of the vote.
Cunningham voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.
The "flag burning amendment", also known as the flag desecration amendment, was sponsored by Rep. Cunningham in the 109th Congress. The Amendment would alter the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow Congress to ban the burning or desecration of American flags.
- The most recent proposed flag burning constitutional amendments have used the following text:
- "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
109th Congress, House of Representatives
The flag burning amendment passed the U.S. House of Representatives on June 22, 2005. The vote was 286-130 in favor, with Democrats voting against by 77-117 and Republicans voting in favor by 209-12. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Cunningham (who has since been convicted on corruption charges) and was cosponsored by 196 other representatives. (Washington Post vote analysis.)/senate/2/votes/189/ Washington Post vote analysis.])
- Main article: flag burning amendment
Meet the Cash Constituents
|Links to more campaign contribution information for Randy "Duke" Cunningham
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
|Fundraising profile:||2006 election cycle||Career totals|
|Top contributors by organization/corporation:||2006 election cycle||Career totals|
|Top contributors by industry:||2006 election cycle||Career totals|
Campaign Contributions from Defense Industry
At $14,500, Peregrine Semiconductor Corporation (not the same as Peregrine Systems, Inc) was Cunningham's third highest campaign contributor in the 2003-2004 election cycle, only surpassed by Titan Corporation and Lockheed Martin, which were tied in first place at $15,000 each. Coming in at #4 was Wade's MZM Inc., tied with Cubic Corporation at $12,000.
Del Mar Real Estate "Deal"
On July 6, 2005, according to the Department of Justice, it was announced that the FBI had "opened an inquiry" into Cunningham's sale of his Del Mar, CA house to a defense contractor.  Prosecutors said in the documents [filed August 25, 2005,] that "Cunningham sold the house in return for his influence in Congress, where he serves on the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending." 
"Cunningham demanded and received this money in return for being influenced in the performance of his official acts as a public official," prosecutor Jason Forge said in the papers." 
In November 2003, Cunningham had sold his home to Mitchell J. Wade, "a campaign contributor and close friend." Reportely, "Wade paid $1.7 million for the 3,826-square-foot house... He put it back on the market soon after and eventually took a $700,000 loss when he resold it in October 2004. During that span, home prices in San Diego County rose an average of nearly 25 percent. 
"Meanwhile, Wade's little-known company, Washington, D.C.-based MZM Inc., was increasing its federal contracting business. In 2004, MZM tripled its revenue and nearly quadrupled its staff, according to the company's Web site."  With the help of government contracts secured by Cunningham, Wade's Washington-based firm generated $150 million in revenue from 2002-2006. 
In return for Cunningham's help, Wade also provided many lavish gifts to the congressman. These included a Victorian china hutch, silver candlesticks, leaded glass doors, Persian and Indian rugs, a sleigh bed, Restoration and Louis Philippe commodes, a four-wheel-drive Chevy Suburban, a secondhand Rolls Royce, and use of Wade's 42-foot yacht, the Duke-Stir (where Cunningham briefly lived rent-free). 
According to Cunningham's estranged wife, Nancy, Wade paid the couple's daughter, Carrie Cunningham, $4,000 for two weeks' work and gave April Cunningham, their other daughter, $2,500 as a wedding present. 
Realtor was campaign contributor
The realtor who arranged the deal between Cunningham and Mitchell Wade was Elizabeth Todd, who chose the sale price. Cunningham "claimed that Wade had 'received comparables from an independent source establishing the value of the home'." However, "other news accounts seem to suggest that the 'independent source' was Elizabeth Todd, who happens to be a major campaign contributor to Cunningham. ... In the 2001-2 cycle, Elizabeth Todd and her husband donated $3000 to Cunningham's campaign."
"From July 1997 to May of 2004, the Todd family gave $11,500 in campaign contributions to the Duke's campaigns. ... 'family' refers to "Elizabeth, her husband Whitney Todd and someone named 'Richard B. Todd' who we'll go out on a limb and say is related to them since he lists the same PO Box and is a 'consultant' for the Todds' company" found
Subsequent Rancho Santa Fe Real Estate "Deal"
In December 2003 Duke paid Douglas Powanda, former Vice President in charge of sales at Peregrine Systems, Inc., $2.55 million for a new house in Rancho Santa Fe (7094 Via Del Charro) The Cunninghams paid cash for the 7,628 square foot house. 
Eight former Peregrine Systems executives, including Powanda, were facing criminal charges October 6, 2004, "involving what U.S. prosecutors ... called a multi-billion dollar securities fraud. ... Six of the same defendants also face charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil lawsuit accusing the former executives of attempting to cover up a massive accounting fraud at the company." 
NOTE: Some news reports have confused Peregrine Systems with Peregrine Semiconductor, but they are completely separate companies.
Tom DeLay Defended Cunningham
On June 14, 2005, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay defended Cunningham after calls from congressional Democrats to investigate the Republican appropriator for selling his San Diego (Del Mar) home to a defense contractor whose firm had received $65 million in federal funds in 2004.
"Duke Cunningham is a hero," DeLay said, "He is an honorable man of high integrity" Patrick O'Connor reported in The Hill in June 2005.reported
Between January 1, 2004, and March 31, 2005, Cunningham voted with Tom DeLay 96% of the time. 
Boat purchases and sale
"Five years after buying the Kelly C for $200,000, Cunningham sold it in 2003 to New York developer Thomas Kontogiannis for $600,000, even though boats typically decrease in value. Kontogiannis, who had been convicted in a bid-rigging scheme involving the New York public schools, had sought Cunningham's help in exploring the possibility of a pardon from President Bush and the Justice Department. Cunningham put Kontogiannis in touch with a Washington law firm and recommended 'two or three' lawyers to talk to, said the Long Island businessman," Dean Calbreath and Jerry Kammer wrote September 10, 2005, for Copley News Service.
Kontogiannis "further acknowledged that a mortgage company owned by his daughter and nephew provided Cunningham with two loans totaling $1.1 million so the congressman could buy his home in Rancho Santa Fe. The businessman said he eventually paid off one of those loans in partial payment for the yacht." 
Boat #3 and Brent Wilkes
"First there was the Kelly C. Then there was the Duke Stir. And now a third boat has emerged in the ongoing saga of favors offered to Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham by business executives whose companies won millions of dollars in government contracts with Cunningham's support," Calbreath and Kammer reported for the Copley News Service on September 10, 2005.
"Brent Wilkes, the Poway defense contractor whose home and offices were raided last month by federal agents, allowed Cunningham use of a 14.5-foot, 170-horsepower fiberglass boat several years ago when it was docked near Cunningham's yacht in Washington, D.C.," they wrote.
"Although the boat – which has since been sold – was typically kept on a trailer at the Washington Harbor, it was sometimes moored behind Cunningham's 65-foot Kelly C at the Capital Yacht Club. At the time, the Kelly C was Cunningham's home in the nation's capital," Calbreath and Kammer wrote.
"Like Wade, Wilkes received Cunningham's support in his efforts to secure federal contracts for ADCS, which converts paper documents into a digital format. Since 1997, Wilkes and other ADCS insiders have given nearly $70,000 to Cunningham and his political action committee," Calbreath and Kammer said. "During that period, Wilkes' company gained at least $80 million in contracts from the Pentagon."
On August 18, 2005, San Diego area newspapers "reported the search by FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Defense Department agents at the offices of ADCS, Inc. and the home of its chief executive, Brent Wilkes, a major contributor to Republican politicians." Wilkes is a former business associate of Mitchell Wade, the head of MZM Inc., "under investigation by a San Diego grand jury." 
- "According to federal databases, ADCS has received $80 million in Defense Department contracts since 1999, mostly for converting documents into digital form using proprietary software. Wade is a former consultant to ADCS who met Cunningham through his work for the San Diego company, according to sources familiar with the relationship.
- "The Pentagon's inspector general previously investigated several ADCS contracts because of complaints 'alleging favoritism and inappropriate actions,' and he concluded in 1999 that they were awarded as the result of irregular procedures. Louis A. Kratz, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense, said in a recent interview that he had requested the IG probe. Both Cunningham and Wilkes had called him seeking the release of funds for ADCS, he said.
- "Kratz said he had never before experienced anything close to their 'meddling' and 'arrogance.' Wilkes 'implied that it was his money,' Kratz said, though the funding was earmarked for a program, not a company. The document conversion program was later killed, Kratz said."
A contracting official with the Department of Defense, Paul Behrens, testified on October 10, 2007 at Wilkes’ trial that he received three phone calls from Cunningham in 1998 and felt he was being pressured on behalf of Wilkes. Behrens was a contracting technical representative on a project converting government projects relating to the Panama Canal from paper to digital form, with Wilke’s firm ADCS Inc. as a subcontractor.
Behrens said he felt much of the work by ACDS was shoddy or could not be verified as having been done. He said he had “adversarial” conversations with Wilkes over the work. Seconds after Behrens told Wilkes he could not approve invoices submitted for work that could not be verified, Wilkes’ Watergate Hotel suite phone rang, Behrens testified. It was Cunningham, who told him that it was “crucial for the national security” that progress on the Panama project go forward, Behrens said. Behrens said he received two more phone calls from Cunningham later. 
The jury was also shown a memo from the time of the project with a bill for $135,000 where Behrens wrote that “the government received nothing of value” for the work. Behrens said that each time he repeatedly asked Wilkes for documentation that the work had been done and inventories on purchases the government was being billed for, Wilkes insisted his company be paid according to the contract payment schedule. 
The defense argued that Wilkes was demanding payment from the government because the main contractor was not paying ACDS for the work the company had done. Geragos said Wilkes had borrowed money to do the project but was then in a “tight spot”. Geragos had Behrens acknowledge Wilkes issued a stop-work order on the project until he was paid for the work he had done. 
Wilkes was convicted on November 5, 2007 on all 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and wire fraud. The individual counts carry maximum sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years. His attorney, Geragos, said "I don’t believe this case was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Obviously I’m very disappointed. I think he shares the confidence that we’ll get it reversed."
U.S. attorney in San Diego, Karen Hewitt, said "This case demonstrates our firm commitment that those who bribe federal officials shall face criminal consequences for their wrongdoing." The jury forewoman said jurors were disappointed not to hear from Cunningham. "It would have been nice to hear his perspective on what happened, seeing that he’s at the center of all this," she said. The jury spent under four full days deliberating before returning the verdict.
Geragos told the judge he intended to appeal on grounds that grand jury secrets were deliberately and illegally disclosed to the news media before Wilkes was indicted in February, 2007. He said he intended to subpoena at least two reporters to determine if the leaks came from the prosecution team. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns told Geragos his prospects for getting the verdict dismissed on only that basis were small.
Attorneys representing Wilkes in a separate federal case said they may ask for him to remain free after sentencing in order to prepare for trial. In the second case, Wilkes was charged with offering former CIA executive director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, a childhood friend, a job and treating him to golf vacations in return for help getting contracts. Both men had pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering.
Josh Marshall of The Hill wrote that all this "should prompt us to ask the question: If Mitchell Wade and Co. had to lavish so much money on Duke Cunningham to get sufficient help to land all these contracts, were MZM's services really the best on offer?" wrote.
"And if they were, why was MZM having such a tough time landing contracts — as reported in the Union-Tribune and the North-County Times — before the company's CEO got so intimately involved in upgrading Cunningham's accommodations in D.C. and back in the district?
"On its website, MZM says it's involved in providing 'force protection' and dealing with improvised explosive devices, the homemade roadside bombs that are killing and maiming so many American soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
"So we must also ask: Are there American servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq making do with second- or third-best because of Cunningham's new house and fancy waterborne digs in D.C.?"
As it turns out, the charity is "headquartered in the same Washington town house as Wade's defense contracting firm, MZM Inc. Wade's wife, Christiane, is the foundation's president, and he is its treasurer. Cunningham's wife, Nancy, and one of his daughters, April, are listed as members of the foundation's advisory board," Jerry Kammer of Copley News Service reported June 24, 2005.
Leaves $32,000 in driveway
In the last days preceding his sentencing, Cunningham left $32,000 in $20 and $100 bills stuffed in Ziploc bags jammed in a metal box in his driveway. When his wife, Nancy Cunningham, told Duke that she had turned over his money to her lawyer, he berated her. He had intended the money to be for her, but Nancy claimed she had no other choice. She stated, "He just doesn't understand...he claims he's innocent, that he's been railroaded by the government, that he shouldn't be in prison. He says he signed the plea agreement under duress." 
On May 17, 2006, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was initiating an investigation into the Cunningham affair and whether it involved other members of Congress. A joint statement by ethics committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Democratic ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said:
- "There have been continuing reports regarding [Cunningham's] conduct, the conduct of his alleged co-conspirators, and others, that, if true, raise serious issues concerning violations of House Rules and standards... Most recently, reports have suggested that federal officials are investigating whether Representative Cunningham and possibly other Members and staff were provided hotel rooms, limousines, and other services in exchange for performing official acts." 
The statement is likely referring to the two California contractors that Cunningham plead guilty to accepting bribes from, Brent Wilkes and Mitchell J. Wade. Wade has told federal investigators that Wilkes used a limousine service to pick up prostitutes and Cunningham and take them to hotel suites. Authorities are investigating whether other members of Congress were involved in the Congressional Bribery and a DC Sex Scandal and Hastings and Berman have stated that other ethics committee investigations could be initiated against other members of Congress and Hill staffers if this is the case. 
On May 18, a week after the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service complained that Cunningham was not cooperating with its investigation, Cunningham's lawyer stated that "he will cooperate with that investigation just as he is cooperating with all the others," referring to the new ethics committee investigation. Cunningham's lawyer, however, refused to comment further on the nature of that cooperation. 
Honored in Washington
On July 13, 2006, The Hill reported that the U.S. Capitol Historical Society announced it will honor several lawmakers, including Cunningham, "for their hard work, service, time and the sacrifices made in upholding the office with which they were entrusted." Cunningham, of course, is unable to attend the event as he is currently serving his prison term. He qualifies for the honor, however, because he is a retiring member of Congress. The society opted not to exclude anyone, even those convicted of a crime. Also invited is former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). 
Use of classified bills for personal gain
On July 23, 2006, an independent investigation by Michael Stern, a private investigator hired by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, found that Cunningham often persuaded aides to slip items into classified bills that would benefit both him and his associates. Intelligence and defense-related bills are written in private for the purposes of national security. Often, members of Congress do not even bother to read these pieces of legislation. Therefore, it is dependent upon members of Congress and select aides with security clearances to ensure that legislation is appropriate. Stern found that while some aides were reluctant to aid Cunningham in adding self-serving clauses in these bills, Cunningham often harassed them to do so. Stern announced that he would like to interview Cunningham in prison to learn more about how he influenced the system. 
As of September 13, 2006, Cunningham had not been subpoenaed to testify regarding these actions in front of the committee due to a disagreement between members over the utility of such an action. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) has expressed her desire to subpoena Cunningham, but Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) has opposed the measure. While he would like to speak to him, he cites the fact that his lawyer has indicated that Cunningham would simply invoke the Fifth Amendment in such a scenario. 
Charges for Wilkes and Foggo
In February 2007, a San Diego based federal grand jury charged the CIA’s former No. 3 person Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes with 11 felonies, including fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. The indictment stated that the two, “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". 
Wilkes' lawyers subpoena members of Congress
House tries to quash Wilkes subpoenas
On September 26, 2007 attorneys for the House of Representatives asked a federal judge to quash subpoenas for twelve congressmen in the trial of defense contractor Brent Wilkes, who was charged with bribing Cunningham. Wilkes’ attorneys sent the subpoenas to former Speaker Dennis Hastert, Republican Whip Roy Blunt, and ten other U.S. representatives on August 13, 2007. His attorneys had also asked for internal investigative documents and correspondence from the House Intelligence Committee. Wilkes had pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. House lawyers argued that the Constitution protected members of Congress from being forced to disclose communications part of their official duties. Wilkes attorney Mark Geragos did not specify what questions he would ask lawmakers on the witness stand because he said it would compromise the right to a fair trial. 
Wilkes subpoena push expanded
On September 27, 2007 it was reported that Brent Wilkes’ lawyers had issued subpoenas to several senators and administration figures in addition to twelve representatives. At least two of the additional subpoenas had not been served. In a filing by the House’s lawyers seeking to quash the twelve subpoenas, the House’s general counsel said that he had been advised by an investigator for Wilkes’ layer Mark Gregos that subpoenas were issued for Sens. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). Administration officials include White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England.
Spokesmen for Sens. Levin, Rockefeller, Craig and Inouye said that they had not been served with subpoenas. Rockefeller’s spokesman noted that the Senate legal counsel had said that they had not received anything. Gregos did not explain the rationale behind the subpoenas, but Wilkes had previously said that his gifts to Cunnigham were part of a corrupt system of which he was a victim. 
Wilkes' defense attempts to exclude evidence
The trial of Wilkes was set to begin Wednesday, October 3, 2007, a day later than originally planned. Judge Larry Alan Burns of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego re-set the trial date after Wilkes’ defense team filed several motions to exclude evidence and requesting that the trial be delayed. Wilkes’ attorney, Geragos, sought to exclude all evidence and testimony relating to the alleged patronage of prostitutes by Wilkes and Cunningham on the grounds that it would unfairly prejudice the jury, denying Wilkes the right to a fair trial under the fifth amendment and sixth amendment. Geragos said that the government’s goal in presenting such evidence is to “sully Mr. Wilkes in the eyes of the jury.”
The government’s trial memorandum summarized the case against Wilkes as paying for Cunningham to stay at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, lavish catered meals, rounds of golf and diving trips in addition to the claim of providing prostitutes. On October 1, 2007, the judge was set to consider a motion filed by the House of Representatives general counsel to quash subpoenas issued to twelve members of congress. 
On Tuesday, October 2 Geragos withdrew the subpoenas of the 12 House members after Judge Burns said he was prepared to quash them. The judge said he would consider enforcing them if Wilkes’ lawyers could show that the congressmen had specific information relevant to the defense. In the pretrial hearing, House Deputy Counsel Kerry Kircher said legislators were shielded by constitutional protections designed to prevent members of Congress from being forced to disclose communications that are part of their duties. Geragos said the congressmen should be forced to testify because of the case’s importance. "It’s almost as if these House members are saying, 'How dare you subpoena us?’” Geragos said. "But we’ve got members who were on these plane flights with Mr. Cunningham, who were going to these dinners hosted by Mr. Wilkes. There’s a whole host of events that have nothing to do with the legislative process."
The subpoena requests included documents that contained details of earmarks Cunningham requested for Wilkes, evidence of bribes offered or paid to Cunningham or other members of Congress by Wilkes and others, and internal investigative documents and correspondence from the House Intelligence Committee. Some of the information was provided for the defense. 
Geragos told reporters that he planned to file new subpoenas against Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and California Republicans Reps. John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter, Darrell Issa, and Jerry Lewis. He also said that he was trying to serve a subpoena for White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. 
Committees and Affiliations
Committees in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)
- Former member House Appropriations Committee
- Former member House Labor, Health and Human Services Committee
- Education Appropriations Subcommittee
- Defense Subcommittee
- Former member House Select Committee on Intelligence (first named 107th Congress by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert)
- Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence on the House Select Committee on Intelligence
More Background Data
Resources and Articles
- Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's official biography.
- Washington Post News archive on Randy "Duke" Cunningham
- "The Unauthorized Randy 'Duke' Cunningham Page" posted on dukecunningham.org website.
- "Just how tangled up in Tom DeLay's Scandal is Randy Duke Cunningham?" Tom DeLay's House of Scandal.
- "Randy Cunningham. F-4 Phantom Pilot, Navy Ace in Vietnam" posted on acepilots.com website.
- "Randy "Duke" Cunningham" posted on au.af.mil website.
- "Rep Randy 'Duke' Cunningham (R) Shenanigans Program & Worksheet." Details and supporting article links are provided below and a good summary of the events to date. *provided by John Van Doorn in the September 10, 2005, North County Times. Another good summary.
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