California Congressman Resigns
Via the Associated Press:
Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, an eight-term congressman and hotshot Vietnam War fighter jock, pleaded guilty to graft and tearfully resigned Monday, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes mostly from defense contractors in exchange for government business and other favors.
“The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office,” the 63-year-old Republican said at a news conference. “I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.”
He could get up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Feb. 27 on federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, and tax evasion.
Investigators said Cunningham, a member of a House Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense dollars, secured contracts worth tens of millions of dollars for those who paid him off. Prosecutors did not identify the defense contractors by name.
Cunningham was charged in a case that grew out of an investigation into the sale of his home to a defense contractor at an inflated price.
The congressman had already announced in July _ after the investigation became public _ that he would not seek re-election next year. But until he entered his plea, he had insisted he had done nothing wrong.
Cunningham’s plea came amid a series of GOP scandals: Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas had to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in a campaign finance case; a stock sale by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being looked at by regulators; and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was indicted in the CIA leak case.
Cunningham, a swaggering former flying ace with the Navy during the Vietnam War, was known on Capitol Hill for his interest in defense issues and his occasional outbursts.