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Bribes a Way of Life for Congressman

Washington – Prosecutors call it a corruption case with no parallel in the long history of the U.S. Congress. And it keeps getting worse. Convicted Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a “bribe menu” that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for Cunningham’s sentencing hearing this Friday.

“The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham’s crimes,” the sentencing memorandum states, “are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress.”

Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican’s “bribery menu” on one of his congressional note cards, “starkly framed” under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

At one point Cunningham was living on a yacht named after him, “The Dukester,” docked near Capitol Hill, courtesy of a defense company president.

Cunningham was a member of the House Appropriations Committee from 1998 to 2005 and served on the subcommittee that provides funding for the Defense Department.

One of the defense contractors, Mitchell Wade, pleaded guilty Friday to giving Cunningham more than $1 million in bribes of cash, cars and antiques over four years in exchange for more than $150 million in government contracts for his company, MZM Inc., in Washington, D.C. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” Wade told Judge Ricardo Urbina. The four corruption charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The government’s sentencing memorandum against Cunningham also details, with photographs included, the luxury vehicles, yachts, homes, antique furniture and Persian rugs that Cunningham received as bribes.

“In my life, I have had great joy and great sorrow,” Cunningham said after admitting his crimes. “And now I know great shame.”

Cunningham pleaded guilty Nov. 28 and apologized in a tearful resignation statement. “I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office,” he said. “I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.”

His lawyers say he has since cooperated fully with the widening government investigation of congressional bribery, and they will ask the judge to go outside the sentencing guidelines and impose a lighter sentence than 10 years.

 

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