San Diego Union Tribune

April 15, 2006

Rep. Hunter's committee to expand search for fishy Cunningham deals

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter has agreed to extend his committee's search for possible improper influence on defense contracts by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham to the entire time the disgraced Republican lawmaker was in Congress.

Hunter, R-Alpine, previously had committed to searching the last three years of the committee's files for suspicious action linked to Cunningham, who admitted to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for funneling more than $200 million in defense funds to two firms.

But Armed Services Committee member Vic Snyder, D-Ark., who requested the probe, released a letter from Hunter yesterday directing the committee's general counsel to conduct the longer probe.

The letter directed Hugh Johnston, the majority Republicans' lawyer, in conjunction with the Democratic minority's counsel, to inspect all the committee files “and retrieve any documents or communications that refer, in any way,” to Cunningham.

“In conducting this review you shall cover Mr. Cunningham's full tenure in Congress (January 1991-November 2005),” Hunter's letter said.

Hunter also directed the committee lawyers to make the documents available to any committee member who wishes to examine them.

“It is my desire that this review shall be completed as soon as possible,” Hunter said.

When Hunter first responded to Snyder's request last month, he said the staff had examined the 2005 records and found no evidence of impropriety. Hunter, who had been a close friend and political ally of Cunningham, directed the staff to look at the 2003 and 2004 files, but not Cunningham's entire congressional career, as Snyder has requested.

The Pentagon inspector general and the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, on which Cunningham had served, reportedly are also examining any defense contracts he might have influenced. But the House Appropriations Committee, which was Cunningham's main venue for getting funds to his benefactors, is not examining the records.

Cunningham is serving an eight-year federal prison term for accepting the bribes and evading federal taxes.

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