WASHINGTON – Randy “Duke” Cunningham used his post on
the House Intelligence Committee to authorize more than
$70 million in funding for projects sought by defense
contractors who bribed him, according to a report released
yesterday by the committee's top Democrat.
In the fullest accounting yet of how the convicted
former congressman used the Intelligence Committee to
further his conspiracy, a summary of the findings of a
committee investigation concluded that Cunningham and
defense contractors Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes
“repeatedly sought to use (the committee) to facilitate
the objectives of the conspiracy, particularly through
requests for congressional funding ('adds' or 'earmarks')
that benefited Wilkes, Wade and other companies.”
Cunningham was able to steer contracts to favored
companies – including Wade's MZM and Wilkes' Poway-based
ADCS – despite suspicions by committee staffers that some
of the spending was suspect and a “waste of taxpayer
money,” according to the report.
One former committee staffer, Brant Bassett, had close
relationships with Wilkes, Cunningham and Kyle “Dusty”
Foggo, the former No. 3 official at the CIA, who is under
federal investigation for his ties to Wilkes, committee
Bassett, who previously worked with Foggo at the CIA,
introduced Foggo to key House Intelligence Committee staff
members and they “sought to motivate various (committee)
members to take desired actions by, among other things,
providing them with gifts of 'government trinkets' such as
a carpet emblazoned with the words 'Global War on
Terror,' ” according to the report.
Foggo also introduced Bassett to a business executive
around the time Bassett was thinking about leaving the
committee for the private sector in 2003, the report
found. The business executive, whose name has not been
released, is also under investigation in the Foggo case.
While the investigators said they could not determine
whether there was any wrongdoing involved in the gifts or
the meeting, they recommended further investigation.
In a statement accompanying the executive summary, Rep.
Jane Harman, D-Venice, the ranking Democrat on the
committee, criticized committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra,
R-Mich., for refusing to subpoena Cunningham, who is
serving more than eight years in prison on conspiracy and
tax evasion charges.
Cunningham, a Rancho Santa Fe Republican who resigned
from Congress in December, has admitted accepting more
than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.
“A subpoena will increase the likelihood that we will
obtain Cunningham's testimony and his cooperation,” Harman
said. “Given the extent of the damage he caused the
taxpayers and our committee, sparing Cunningham the
embarrassment of having to assert his Fifth Amendment
rights is not a goal our minority members and I share.”
Hoekstra reported for the first time yesterday that
Cunningham “has reached out to the committee and offered
his testimony, a possibility the special counsel is still
Neither he nor his staff elaborated.
Harman chastised Hoekstra, saying in a written
statement that “it is totally inappropriate for the
Chairman to be in contact with Cunningham, which he has
Hoekstra blasted Harman, saying that “the unilateral
decision by Harman to break our bipartisan, written
agreement to review the Cunningham matter by releasing an
incomplete, internal committee document that has not been
reviewed by other committee members is disturbing and
beyond the pale.”
Harman said the public had a right to see the
conclusions of the committee's investigation, which was
conducted by a special counsel and completed in May. She
said she had been pushing for months for the committee to
produce an unclassified version of the report.
Only the five-page executive summary of the report was
released yesterday. The full 59-page report remains
The House Appropriations Committee, on which Cunningham
also served, has rebuffed requests for information from
House Intelligence Committee investigators.
The Appropriations Committee is headed by Rep. Jerry
Lewis, R-Redlands, who is under federal investigation for
his ties to former San Diego Republican Rep. Bill Lowery,
a lobbyist who secured funding from the committee for his
The Defense Department, which managed many of the
programs for which Wilkes and Wade received contracts,
“has been unwilling to share additional information to
date, due to the pending criminal investigations,” the
In 2003, Cunningham secured crucial House Intelligence
Committee support for a new initiative in the Pentagon's
top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA,
program, to be run by MZM.
Wade pleaded guilty in February to giving Cunningham
more than $1 million in bribes and is awaiting sentencing,
which has been delayed while he continues to cooperate
Wilkes has not been charged.
The Appropriations Committee's refusal to cooperate
with the special counsel raises questions about the role
of Lewis, who from 1999 to 2005 was chairman of the
defense appropriations subcommittee, on which Cunningham
served. The subcommittee oversees the budget for
intelligence operations. At the beginning of 2005, Lewis
became chairman of the full Appropriations Committee.
The committee's unresponsiveness appears to contradict
Lewis' public statement that he would “welcome a thorough
review” of the funding associated with Cunningham's
After Cunningham's guilty plea, Lewis resisted calls
for the Appropriations Committee to conduct its own
Lewis instead ordered an informal review of
Cunningham's earmarks and said he was satisfied that they
were all legitimate.
The report released yesterday does not identify the
Intelligence Committee staff members who assisted
Cunningham's requests benefiting Wade and Wilkes.
While the summary says “additional inquiry is
warranted,” it stops short of recommending that any staff
members be referred to federal law enforcement agencies
for possible criminal investigation.
“We have found no evidence that any (committee) staff
members, current or former, profited, sought to profit, or
expected to profit personally from any of the funding
requests in question,” stated the report. “We also have
found no evidence that any (committee) staffer was aware
of, or in any way participated in, any financial
inducements provided to Cunningham by Wilkes, Wade or
Several crucial witnesses, including Wilkes and Wade,
were not interviewed as part of the investigation.
After Sept. 11
The summary spotlighted Intelligence Committee staff
support for projects at the Counterintelligence Field
Activity agency, which was set up in the wake of the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks to protect U.S. defense
facilities. The programs were designed to benefit Wade.
“Because of Cunningham's insistence, (committee) staff
agreed to support this project, despite staff's concerns
that it was a 'pork barrel' project and a waste of
“Over time, (committee) staff learned of numerous 'red
flags' associated with the counterintelligence project,
including frequently expressed questions about the ethics
and integrity of Wade, doubts about the value of the
project and MZM's performance, and grave concerns about
the propriety of the Cunningham-Wade relationship.”
Despite all that, the summary says, the staff continued
to support the program.
“In light of this Report,” Harman said in her
statement, “our Committee must examine why 'red flags' did
not trigger greater scrutiny of Cunningham's activities,
and what can be done to prevent this type of abuse in the
The report does not discuss the possible culpability of
any member of the committee, including Hoekstra, who as
chairman is responsible for the committee's activities.
The scope of the report was limited to staff, not the
lawmakers themselves, according to the summary.
The release of the report comes amid a flurry of
congressional ethics cases setting a troubling backdrop
for incumbents in Congress just weeks before the midterm
On Friday, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, pleaded guilty to
corruption charges in connection with his dealings with
convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On Monday, FBI agents
raided six locations as part of a corruption investigation
targeting Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. Also on Monday, Senate
Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that he
would amend his ethics reports to Congress to more fully
account for a Las Vegas land deal.
Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who famously stashed
cash in his freezer, is the target of a continuing bribery
services contributed to this report.