The Duke Cunningham Scandal
Randy "Duke" Cunningham might have been the sleaziest Congressman on Capitol Hill in decades, and none of his colleagues was as tied up in his terrible graft as Rep. Duncan Hunter. Hunter bagged more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from Brent Wilkes and his firm ADCS, the infamous contractor that bribed Cunningham in order to receive huge federal contracts. USA Today had the story on 11/29/2005:
Since 1994, Wilkes and ADCS gave $40,700 in campaign contributions to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego Republican who now chairs the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter has acknowledged that he joined with Cunningham in 1999 to contact Pentagon officials who reversed a decision and gave ADCS one of its first big contracts, for nearly $10 million. Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, said the congressman was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
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Wilkes' ties to Hunter and Cunningham go beyond campaign contributions. In 2003, the businessman's foundation hosted a "Salute to Heroes" gala to give Hunter an award, just as it did for Cunningham a year earlier. The Wilkes Foundation gave $1,000 in 2003 to a charity run by two of Hunter's staffers, records show.
And there was payoff: in 1999, Hunter worked to secure Pentagon earmarks to the tune of $9.7 million for ADCS to convert historical maps of Panama into electronic documents. Pentagon officials resisted the earmarks. A 1996 report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Pentagon had the tools to complete the work internally. However, Hunter prevailed, and the earmark passed. From 1993 to 2001, Hunter and other congressmen allocated a total of $190 million for digital data conversion projects.
Shady Deal on an Alpine Home
In 1994, Hunter bought an Alpine home for $175,000. On tax forms, Hunter claimed the house to have 2,946 square feet, when in fact the house had about 6,200 square feet of living space. The discrepancy meant Hunter paid lower taxes on the property. Hunter is still fighting the IRS to avoid back payments. The IRS originally claimed back payments of $4,936 but reduced the fine to $667 after Hunter protested.
The circumstances under which he bought the house have come under suspicion by the San Diego Union Tribune. The house was owned by the federal government and was sold at auction for $175,000 to a bank acting in the interest of a government corporation, the Resolution Trust Corp. Hunter bought the house less than two months later for the same price. Resolution Trust Corp. has regulations that prevent insider trading and conflicts of interest. Hunter refused to allow the San Diego Union Tribune review private information on his purchase of the home, claiming it would be "an extremely prejudicial inquiry." (San Diego Union Tribune 10/8/2006)
Blocked Abu Ghraib Investigation
As head of the House Armed Services Commission, Hunter had jurisdiction to investigate the greatest blemish on America's image in two decades: the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. But incredibly, Hunter refused to investigate the matter, and in fact blocked attempts to do so. Hunter shares a cabin in rural Virginia with former Rep. Pete Geren, who served as an aid to Donald Rumsfeld from 2001 to 2005. Geren acted as the liason between Congress and the Defense Department during the scandal. While Hunter's Senate counterpart, John Warner, trace the abuses up the chain of command, Hunter claimed that "'six idiots' were entirely responsible for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and there is 'no evidence' that military intelligence officers, civilian contractors or other superiors were culpable." (Baltimore Sun, 5/5/2004)
Top Campaign Contributor Guilty of Bribery Charges
Titan Corp., Hunter's top campaign contributor, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2005. Titan Corp. has held large Defense contracts, including acting as interpreters in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal; in fact, reports on the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib implicated Titan employees. But Hunter refused to use his authority as chairman of the Armed Services Committee to investigate the Abu Ghraib incident. An investigation by the San Diego Union Tribune also found that Titan employees in Iraq were poorly trained as linguists and some barely spoke English. Despite the controversy surrounding Titan Corp. the Defense Department has chosen not to disbar Titan from government contracts. (Project on Government Oversight, 6/8/2006)