Corruption 101: Buy something from a politician at an inflated price

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Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican from California, resigned today and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion. (Here's the AP story. Hat tip to Dan Lovejoy.) Cunningham took $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering defense contracts to certain contractors. (I haven't been able to find out yet how he, as an individual congressman, was able to make that happen, but if he was, that needs to be fixed.)

What I find interesting is the method used for one of the larger bribes. Mitchell Wade, head of a defense contractor called MZM, purchased a home from Cunningham for $1.675 million, then sold it a year later for $975,000. The Realtor who set the price for the sale by Cunningham to Wade was a campaign contributor to Cunningham. That amounts to $700,000 in Cunningham's pocket that wouldn't show up as a payment or a gift, even though that's exactly what it was.

Remember Speaker of the House Jim Wright? As a source of extra income, he compiled and published a vanity book of speeches and notes called Reflections of a Public Man, and to help him get around limits on outside income, groups would buy crates of the thing, and then warehouse them or throw them away. If I recall correctly, there were no limits on book royalties for House members, but there were limits on speaking fees and other sources of income, intended to prevent the use of such fees as a way to influence a congressman. Wright resigned as Speaker and from Congress in 1989 under that ethical cloud.

Two points to make:

(1) The more power is concentrated in any one individual to direct public money for private profit, the more likely bribery becomes. Procurement procedures with checks and balances may take more time and cost more money, but they discourage this kind of abuse.

(2) Bribes aren't given as bundles of cash in a brown paper bag anymore. If you see a government official consistently steering business to a handful of close associates, and you're looking for a quo to go along with a quid, you ought to look at any opportunity to render payment to a public official (home sales, salaries, services rendered) and see if that payment is in excess of market prices or customary rates.

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Batesline is on the Duke Cunningham story. Tim Challies and Evangelical Outpost are looking at the theology of cussin'. Reliapundit on the fizzling end of Cindy's Crawford junket. According to the article, 200 people showed. That's something less than ... Read More

4 Comments

W. Author Profile Page said:

In my native Illinois, I saw the same sort of thing happen to former Gov. George Ryan, who is under indictment on 66 counts of influence peddling, bribery and all sorts of unsavory corruption. He hasn't been found guilty yet, but literally dozens of underlings, including his No. 2 man, already have pleaded guilty to related charges. Corruption already has been proved to be widespread in the Illinois GOP.

Interesting side note: The man who led the investigation and brought the charges against Ryan and his cronies was a tough prosecutor by the name of Patrick Fitzgerald. Needless to say, when I heard Fitzgerald was investigating the CIA leak, I knew some people in the Bush Adminstration were going to be in trouble. Fitzgerald was nominated to be U.S. Attorney in Chicago by maverick Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation) because Patrick was known to be an extremely tenacious prosecutor who didn't tolerate corruption. Sen. Fitzgerald saw corruption in his party, and despite much internal resistance to his nomination, decided to do something about it.

Mark my words: It won't be the Iraq War or the CIA leak that will do the most damage to the Republican Party. It will be corruption. The GOP had better clean house fast, or voters will do it for them.

Bob said:

Once, Cunningham was a genuine Viet Nam War Hero, shooting down 3 MIGS in one day in 1972, and earning the coveted title of ACE (along with a Navy Cross!). He once had the Right Stuff.

Somehow, he lost he moral compass. Was it the 8 terms in Congress that lead him astray??

Other techniques that grafting politicians use to sell their office is to be allowed to BUY an asset from a benefactor at a price below market value. This is the reciprocal transaction of what Cunningham perpetrated, which was to SELL a non-commoditized asset to a benefactor at a price far above market value. Transactions through relatives, spouses, and close friends are also used to mask these bent transactions.

The current weak Ethics and Financial disclosures required of local, state, and federal politicians are a root cause of this continuing problem.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

This is truly a shame. I hate to be this way, but he should get all the punishment he is entitled to receive. This type of behavior cannot be acceptable in our form of government. For heaven's sake its the stuff 3rd World governments are notorious for. Public servant indeed. If you hold elective office and you are doing this type of stuff: shame on you.

Bob said:

Congressman Cunningham is being severely punished already, because as a decorated war hero, he has lost something that he esteemed as very valuable: His Good Name. Now, instead of an Fighter Ace/Hero, he's a Zero.

If we had a functioning U.S. Attorney's office in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, they could have a lifetime career investigating our Tulsa County Government. EVERY deal at the County is a buddy deal of Commissioner Dirty Bob Dick: Cinnabar/Parmele/Bacon/Stites, Orbison, Alter/Matrix, Piercey et al.

When is it time to finally start measuring them for Orange Jumpsuits?


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 28, 2005 10:14 PM.

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