They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Duke Cunningham: On Second Thought, No I Wasn't Bribed

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Newscom

As the paper points out, Cunningham's new take on the payment is pretty different from what he's said about it in the past:

That contradicts statements Cunningham has made acknowledging it was a bribe in previous court filings, including correspondence from his lawyers when they were trying to get his sentence reduced because of his cooperation with prosecutors.

For Wilkes -- who's been doing pretty well for himself while out on bail appealing his 2007 bribery conviction -- Cunningham's statement offers a chance at redemption in the form of a retrial. At least that's what his lawyers say.

For Cunningham, the statement is a big shift from the attitude he's had toward his case since getting thrown in the slammer in 2006. After pleading guilty in a truly epic bribery case that involved, among other things, the "bribe menu" Cunningham offered defense contractors looking to cash on on his political power, Cunningham struck a contrite note with the judge.

"Your honor I have ripped my life to shreds due to my actions, my actions that I did to myself," he told the judge at his sentencing. "I made a very wrong turn. I rationalized decisions I knew were wrong. I did that, sir."

Now, it seems, a least some of the bribes he copped to weren't actually bribes at all in his mind.

But a close look at Cunningham since he went to prison shows a history of weird statements like the one he offered up last week. In September, he claimed that the judge had abandoned the plea deal he struck with prosecutors four years ago and sent the "KGB IRS" after him and his family.

A month earlier, he told a San Diego newspaper that he was now a prison reform advocate.

"Maybe that's why God put me here, to bring about much needed prison reform," he told the paper.