Trial Starts For Contractor Who Bribed Lawmakers
The prominent defense contractor who served as a Republican presidential and gubernatorial campaign finance chairman will go on trial this week for bribing a jailed congressman with cash, luxury items and even prostitutes.
More than a dozen House members from both parties have been subpoenaed in the San Diego trial of contractor Brent Wilkes, who is accused of bribing convicted Republican Representative Randy â??Dukeâ? Cunningham with a steady flow of cash and perks ranging from a fancy jet boat to the services of prostitutes at a luxurious Hawaiian resort.
Cunningham pleaded guilty in 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in kickbacks and is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence in a facility near Tucson Arizona. The veteran congressman admitted taking the bribes in exchange for helping Wilkes secure nearly $100 million in lucrative federal contracts.
During a lengthy jailhouse interview with the FBI last year, Cunningham outlined his corrupt dealings and admitted demanding bribes from Wilkes, accepting cash-filled envelopes from the Poway contractor and luxury vacations. The scathing 11-page FBI report of the jailhouse interview is sure to add drama to the courtroom showdown this week.
Wilkes is also said to have bribed other lawmakers in exchange for their help in approving federal contracts that financially benefited his company, ADCS Inc. Among them is California Republican John Doolittle, a former member of the House Appropriations Committee implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, who helped Wilkes secure nearly $40 million in government contracts in exchange for a $46,000 campaign contribution.
A well-connected businessman, Wilkes also worked as a lobbyist for more than a decade and served as San Diego County finance co-chairman for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state fiance co-chairman for President George W. Bush. He was a â??pioneerâ? of Bushâ??s 2004 reelection campaign for raising at least $100,000 and he has donated more than $840,000 to 32 House members or candidates in the last few years.