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One of the most

One of the most telling features of the "Duke" Cunningham scandal (CunningScam? Yachthgate?) is that with all the very damning information that has been revealed over the last ten days neither of the principals has managed to say much of anything in their defense.

To the best of my knowledge (and I've followed this fairly closely), MZM CEO and grand poobah Mitchell Wade has not spoken to any reporter about anything related to the story.

For the first few days, his employees put out the word that he was "traveling without access to a telephone", which, for most businessmen today, is rather like drinking without a cup. More recently he seems simply to have gone to ground with no particular need for an any explanation.

At some later day, we may find him looking for the real killers or as the case may be, the real home buyers. But for the moment, he's nowhere to be found. And this is a federal contractor doing business with the USG on super-serious defense and homeland security matters.

Even more telling is the tightlippedness of Cunningham himself. After the story first broke he put out word that he was assembling paperwork that would put all questions to rest. But he now seems to have gone to ground too -- a sitting member of Congress no less.

Here, the North County Times (which has been giving the San Diego Union-Tribune a run for its money on this one) picks up the story. Cunningham spokesman Mark Olson says that the congressman has no timeline for when he'll speak to reporters or come forward with his all-clarifying dossier. But even the local head of the GOP doesn't seem happy about it. San Diego County GOP chief Ron Nehring says: "I think everyone is looking forward to the situation being clarified. There clearly is more information that needs to come out and when that happens we will get a clearer idea of what happens next."

Says Olson: "The congressman is putting together all the relevant records and information and will disclose it at the appropriate time."

Seems like an appropriate time.

Wed heard this was

We'd heard this was coming. Now Copley News Service's Marcus Stern has the goods: "A defense contractor who took a $700,000 loss on the purchase of Rep. Randy Cunningham's Del Mar residence in 2003, and provided a yacht for his use in the nation's capital, forced his employees to make political contributions that benefited the San Diego Republican and other members of Congress, according to three former senior officials of the company.(emphasis added)"

There's also this intriguing nugget: "A third former employee of MZM described being rounded up along with other employees one afternoon in the company's Washington headquarters and told to write a check with the political recipient standing by. The former employee didn't give the name of the politician receiving the donations."

Boy, would it be fun to know who that 'political recipient' was.

And perhaps not that hard since the universe of members of Congress spending serious time on the MZM gravy train seems not to have been that large.

Earlier we told you about Rep. Virgil Goode (R) from Southside Virginia. But don't forget about the rest of folks who got money.

Like Katherine Harris.

In the 2004 cycle the MZM political action committee gave out $34,000 to House candidates. The totals go like this ...

Cunningham, Randy "Duke" (R-CA) $6,000 Forbes, J Randy (R-VA) $5,000 Goode, Virgil H Jr (R-VA) $10,000 Harris, Katherine (R-FL) $10,000 Hunter, Duncan (R-CA) $1,000 Renzi, Rick (R-AZ) $2,000

So Katherine Harris got $10,000 from the MZM Pac. And during the same cycle she got another $32,000 from employees of MZM.

Actually, not just during the same cycle. If you look at this read-out from OpenSecrets.org you'll see that that $32,000 came in 16 checks for $2000 each. And 14 of those $2,000 checks were written out on one day -- March 23rd, 2004, a Tuesday.

The two other were written out on April 1st, 2004 a Thursday by MZM owner Mitchell Wade's wife: Christiane Wade.

With Cunningham and Goode, Mitchell Wade had some very specific piece of business he wanted help with. What was his angle on Katherine Harris?

On the House floor

On the House floor today, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) announced that he'd just been served with four subpoenas. Not that this is out of an abundance of candor. I think it's a House rule that you've got to disclose it in this way.

But apparently, they're not subpoenas over the House debacle, which the feds are also investigating. They're about something else. A Cunningham spokesman said the subpoenas were related to "constituent casework" but declined to give more details.

Now, as I think we've learned, 'constituent casework' can have a rather expansive meaning for the Duke. But there's another bit of this story that's unclear to me.

Right now I'm looking at an AP story at the New York Times website. The headline reads "Rep. Cunningham Discloses Federal Subpoena." But the article says the subpoenas were issued by the "Imperial County Superior Court." That sounds to me like a state court. And presumably this court is the one they're referring to. Either I'm wrong or they made a mistake. And one way or another it's likely a simple error. But what's also notable is that as near as I can tell, none of the Duke's 50th district falls anywhere in California's Imperial County, which happens to be in Rep. Bob Filner's district. (See page 4 of this pdf.)

I'm not expert on trial court nomenclature or San Diego-area congressional districts, so if I've gotten any of these points wrong, please let me know. But it does make me wonder just what other trouble the Duke's gotten himself into.

Late Update: TPM Reader SS alerts me to this late article on the the subpoenas mentioned above. It seems the case in question is one in which Cunningham is merely a bystander.

Theres a pretty funny

There's a pretty funny ad running today at NationalJournal.com. Here's a short snippet about it from <$NoAd$>CongressDaily ...


Stark Runs Satirical Home-Sale Ad In Shot At Cunningham

Rep. Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif., has bought ads on the Web sites of the National Journal Group's CongressDaily and Hotline, targeting Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., for his home sale to contractor Mitchell Wade, the head of MZM, Inc. "It is ridiculous that the House is still without a working Ethics Committee that can investigate abuses of power," Stark said today. "I took out the ad to highlight that need. Plus, I have found that using humor to prove a point seems to especially get under the skin of the majority party." The $500 ad buy was paid personally by Stark and does not name Cunningham directly. It is a mock real estate ad for Stark's own home whose headline reads: "Attention Powerful Lobbyists! House for Sale by Influential Member of Congress." The ad continues, "From recent practices by defense contractor lobbyists, it appears that you may be able to slip a cool million to a member of Congress with little fear of ethics violations!"

Here's a picture of the ad.

Over the weekend The

Over the weekend The Washington Post had a nice piece detailing the various shenanigans of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) and MZM, Inc., as well as the company's dealing with Rep. Virgil Goode (R) of Virginia.

To date, it's only fair to point out that Goode's help to MZM seems to have been in return for old-fashioned campaign donations rather than the more innovative personal cash bonuses received by Duke.

But looking at the coverage of the story over the last two days, I wonder whether Cunningham may not have ingeniously sucked all the air out of the coverage of the story by being so obviously guilty that there's little left to talk about.

And another question: who dropped the dime on the Duke?

If Republicans want him off the stage, now'd be about the best time to do it since there's plenty of time for Duke to decide he wants to spend more time with his family and for the local party to recruit another candidate.

He might even be unique and simply say that he wants to spend more time in his new house.

Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders

Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders (I), who's <$NoAd$> running for Senate next year, just started his Table for One guest-blogging stint at TPMCafe.

In his first post he says he'll be reading your comments throughout the day and following up with responses where possible.

Here's the last paragraph of his first post to give you a flavor ...

The political stakes in America have never been higher. If we lose, if the grass roots of America don't speak out, if we do not turn back the radical Bush Administration, we will for the first time in our nation's history see the next generation both less free and less economical prosperous than we are. What an incredible challenge we face. That is why I think it is so important for all of us to be involved in the political process and why I'm so glad to be communicating with you through TPMCafe today. I know I've touched on a lot of topics in a short space but my hope is to spark some interesting and informative exchanges. So pull up a chair to the Table for One and let's get started.

You can read the whole thing here. Do stop by.

A correction. On Saturday

A correction. On Saturday I noted that a judge in New Hampshire had ordered the state Republican party to turn over all its records about its own investigation of the party's election-tampering activities on election day 2002. I said this was the judge in the upcoming trial of James Tobin, arch-phone jammmer who was then the NRSC Northeast political director and a Bill Frist employee.

The last part was incorrect. This happened not in the Tobin criminal case but in a separate legal proceeding -- the state Democratic party's civil suit against the state Republican party.

As I should have remembered, covering the NH GOP requires a pretty detailed knowledge of the state court system.

As you may have

As you may have seen, the 'Denver Three' (the three Denver residents tossed out of a Bamboozlepalooza event for having a non-Bush-True bumper-sticker on their car) are headed to Washington today. And they're going to hand-deliver a letter to the White House today at 4 PM.

Also worth noting, in terms of credit where credit is due, the three will be meeting not only with Colorado Democrats on the hill but with Republicans too. They'll be meeting in person with Rep. Mark Udall (D)and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) and staff members of other key members of the delegation, including Rep. Beauprez (R), at whose Bamboozlepalooza event all the shenanigans went down in the first place.

Do let me know if these three worthies get any play on Inside Politics or the other similar shows.

Steve Soto has a

Steve Soto has a great catch today over at the TPMCafe Economics discussion table about Social Security front. Sens. DeMint, Santorum and Graham next week will unveil a new plan to fund private accounts out of the money that's supposed to go into the Trust Fund.

So, after months of claiming that the sky is falling because the Trust Fund won't keep growing forever or, alternatively, that the Trust Fund doesn't exist at all, they now offer a new solution, raid the Trust Fund now to fund private accounts.