In the interest of full discloser, here's what D4D is referring to:
Long read from Wikipedia
Allegations surface; Cunningham initially defiant
In June 2005 it was revealed that a defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, founder of the defense contracting firm MZM Inc. (since renamed Athena Innovative Solutions Inc.), had bought Cunningham's house in Del Mar for $1,675,000. A month later, Wade placed it back on the market where it remained unsold for 8 months until the price was reduced to $975,000. Cunningham was a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee; soon after the purchase, Wade began to receive tens of millions of dollars worth of defense and intelligence contracts. Cunningham claimed the deal was legitimate, adding, "I feel very confident that I haven't done anything wrong".
Later in June, it was further reported that Cunningham lived in a yacht while he was in Washington that was owned by Wade, paying only for maintenance. It is said Cunningham liked to invite women to his yacht. Two of them said that he would change into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater to entertain them with chilled champagne by the light of his favorite lava lamp. The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation regarding the real estate transaction. His home as well as MZM Corporate Offices and Wade's home were all simultaneously raided by a number of federal agencies with warrants on July 1, 2005.
In 1997, Cunningham bullied the Pentagon into buying a $20 million document-digitization system created by ADCS Inc., a company owned by San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes. Wilkes owned several companies with ties to the defense industry. The Pentagon didn't want the system and preferred to use the money for other purposes. When it hadn't implemented the system three years later, Cunningham went ballistic at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. He demanded the firing of Lou Kratz, an assistant undersecretary of defense he held responsible for the delays. While this appeared to be another typical Cunningham outburst, it later emerged that Wilkes reportedly gave Cunningham more than $630,000 in cash and favors.
Cunningham angrily denied the charges, telling his constituents on June 23 that he had "acted honorably and honestly" during his 14 years in office. However, on July 14, he announced he would not run for a ninth term in 2006, saying that he displayed "poor judgement" when he sold his former home to Wade.
Cunningham was also criticized for selling merchandise on his personal website, since disabled, such as a $595 buck knife featuring the official Congressional seal. However, he never obtained permission to use the seal, which is a federal offense.
On November 28, 2005, Cunningham pled guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud at the San Diego Federal District court. The house sale at an inflated price, the free use of the yacht, a used Rolls-Royce, antique furniture, Persian rugs, jewelry, and a $2,000 contribution for his daughter's college graduation party were only a few of the numerous bribes that Cunningham admitted taking.
As part of his guilty plea, Cunningham forfeited his home in Rancho Santa Fe, which he bought with the proceeds of the sale of his previous home to Wade. Wade and others had even paid off Cunningham's mortgage on the balance. He will also forfeit more than $1.8 million in cash, antiques and rugs. Cunningham had tried to sell his new house, but federal prosecutors moved to block the sale after finding evidence that he bought it with Wade's money. Cunningham's attorney, Mark Holscher, later said that the government's evidence was so overwhelming that he had no choice but to recommend a guilty plea. Had he tried to fight the charges, Cunningham risked spending the rest of his life in prison.
Federal prosecutors pushed for the maximum sentence of ten years. Cunningham's defense lawyers said that at 64 years old and with prostate cancer, Cunningham may die in prison if he received the full sentence. On March 3, 2006, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns sentenced Cunningham to eight years, four months in prison, citing his military service in Vietnam as the reason the full ten years was not imposed. Prosecutors announced that they were satisfied with the sentence.
Besides Wade, the three other co-conspirators are: Brent Wilkes, founder of San Diego-based ADCS Inc.; New York businessman Thomas Kontogiannis; and John T. Michael, Kontogiannis' nephew.
Cunningham announced his resignation at a press conference just after entering his plea. He submitted his official resignation letter to the Clerk of the House and to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on December 6. Had Cunningham declined to resign, he would have been very limited performing his duties in Congress, as House rules do not allow members convicted of felonies to vote or participate in committee work. It is very likely that the Ethics Committee would have recommended expelling Cunningham from the House, as happened with Democrat James Traficant three years earlier. Under Republican caucus rules, he would have lost his subcommittee chairmanship.
In marked contrast to his defiant stand earlier in the year, Cunningham was very contrite, sullen and overcome by emotion when he read his prepared statement announcing that he was stepping down:
"When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public—even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry. The truth is—I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family. ... In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends".
Despite his guilty plea, Cunningham may still receive a pension for his 21 years of service in the Navy and almost 15 years in Congress. While federal law only allows the government to strip pensions from federal employees guilty of treason, perjury or trading secrets with the enemy, San Diego benefits expert Robert Goldstein told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it is possible the government could still try to take the money from Cunningham.
Reaction to plea agreement
Darrell Issa, a Republican who represents the neighboring 49th District, said after Cunningham's plea that he'd been waiting for Cunningham to explain his behavior "in a way that made sense to us" and that Cunningham's behavior "fell below the standard the public demands of its elected representatives". Duncan Hunter, the other Republican who represents San Diego County, said on November 30 that he and Cunningham spent the rest of November 28 in prayer and that Cunningham wanted to "serve those who are suffering (and) to begin his long road of atonement" for his crimes. Many of Cunningham's staffers were stunned at the extent of their boss's crimes.
Union-Tribune columnist George Condon suggested in a December 1 column that Cunningham's actions "may have put ... troops at greater risk by judging contracts more for what they would do for him than for the military".
Francine Busby, Cunningham's Democratic challenger in 2004 and a Democratic candidate for the 50th District in the upcoming special election to fill Cunningham's vacancy, called November 28th "a sad day for the people" and called for support for her proposed ethics reform bill, the "Clean House Act", saying "Our government in Washington is broken".
In an editorial on November 29, the Washington Post called the Cunningham affair "the most brazen bribery conspiracy in modern congressional history". Later that day, President George W. Bush called Cunningham's actions "outrageous" at a press briefing in El Paso. He also said that Cunningham should "pay a serious price" for his crimes. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said in a December 6 statement that Cunningham was a "war hero," but that he broke "the public trust he has built through his military and congressional career". Several of Cunningham's former colleagues have donated to charity campaign contributions he had given them.
On February 9, 2006, Senator John Kerry introduced a bill to prevent lawmakers who have been convicted of official misconduct from collecting taxpayer funded pensions. Officially the bill is named the "Federal Pension Forfeiture Act", but unofficially it has been dubbed the "Duke Cunningham Act".
Almost as soon as Cunningham pled guilty, Intelligence Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan (who, ironically, represents Guy Vander Jagt's former district) announced his panel would investigate whether Cunningham used his post on that committee to steer contracts to favored companies. Hoekstra said that Cunningham "no longer gets the benefit of the doubt" due to his admission to "very, very serious" crimes. "We need to look at worst-case scenarios," he added. He also shut off Cunningham's access to classified information. While Hoekstra doesn't believe that Cunningham improperly influenced the Intelligence Committee's work, a committee spokesman said that he wanted to make sure its work stayed on the level.
Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and former chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, said that he plans to review Cunningham's requests for defense projects. While he felt most of the requests were legitimate and supported by the Pentagon, he said that he needed to be "doubly sure that anything shaky is not going to stay in".
On December 14, prosecutors in former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's money laundering trial revealed that they are looking into ties between Wilkes and DeLay. One of Wilkes' companies donated $15,000 to DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority. Wilkes also hired a consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife, Christine.
On January 6, 2006, Time reported that Cunningham cooperated with law enforcement by wearing a concealed recording device (a "wire") while meeting with associates prior to his guilty plea. It is not known whom he met with while wired, but there is speculation Cunningham's misdeeds were not isolated instances and his case could reveal a larger web of corruption.
On February 24, 2006, Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty to paying Cunningham more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for millions more in government contracts.
Shouldn't be any tolerance for these types of crimes, but based on his outstanding service record and evident remorse, I appreciate the judge for at least considering these during sentencing. Most likely he will die a lonely man of prostate cancer in prison. The primary disease, though, was the "inside the beltway" pathology.
Tragic from every angle...