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Corruption Chronicles

Jailed Lawmaker Asks Bush For Clemency

The corrupt Republican congressman in jail for taking millions of dollars in bribes from a prominent defense contractor has asked President George W. Bush to grant him clemency before leaving office.

San Diego Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence for taking $2.4 million in cash, trips, prostitute services and other gifts from defense firms in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

With massive amounts of evidence against him, the veteran politician pleaded guilty to the crimes in late 2005, was sent off to a Tucson Arizona federal prison for eight years and four months in early 2006 and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution. During his sentencing hearing, the disgraced lawmaker told the judge “I did it to myself. I could have said no and I didn’t. It was me.”

Gory details of Cunningham’s despicable actions were not made public because he reached a plea agreement, but the 2007 federal trial of the contractor who bribed him resembled a sleazy soap opera with sordid details of the veteran lawmaker engaging with prostitutes in a hot tub at a lavish Hawaiian resort.

The politically connected defense contractor (Brent Wilkes), who had served as a Republican presidential and gubernatorial campaign finance chairman, was eventually convicted of 13 counts of bribery, conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for providing Cunningham with a steady flow of cash and perks in exchange for $100 million in government contracts.

Besides large amounts of cash, Cunningham received fancy meals, expensive gifts (a boat, computers and sophisticated navigation software, among them), trips, Super Bowl tickets and golf outings as well as sexual escapades with high-priced hookers.

Yet, incredibly, this shamed lawmaker has the audacity to ask the president for clemency. He recently submitted an official petition with the Department of Justice seeking to commute his sentence. Now the agency will review the petition and recommend to the president whether it should be granted. The legislator who replaced Cunningham in the House, Republican Brian Bilbray, points out that he can’t overstate the damage Cunningham did to the institution of government.


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