Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A few days ago, a TPM Reader, who was doing some of her own sleuthing, wrote in to tell me that there might be an interesting backstory to the House Duke Cunningham bought as well as the one he sold.

I feel bad because I wasn't able to work quickly enough in this case with the information she was kind enough to send my way.

But now Tony Perry of the LA Times has confirmed what my reader was telling me.

This from Perry's article in today's Times ...

A month after selling their Del Mar Heights home, Cunningham and his wife, Nancy, paid $2.5 million for an 8,000-square-foot home in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe owned by Douglas and Karen Powanda.

Douglas Powanda is a former executive vice president at Peregrine Systems, a San Diego-based business-software company.

Peregrine was Cunningham's third-largest corporate contributor in 2004, giving $14,000 in individual and corporate donations. In late 2004, Powanda was among eight former Peregrine executives indicted by a federal grand jury in an alleged multibillion-dollar securities fraud; he awaits trial.

Coincidences just won't leave <$Ad$> our man Duke alone when he gets into the real estate game, will they?

Oddly, these three grafs are just dropped down into the center of the article with no other mention or elaboration of the potential significance of this little piece of data.

(Here actually, is what appears to be the grant deed of the sale. And here's an October 2004 article about the Peregrine swindlers.)

But how does this strike you?

According to this page over at Opensecrets.org, Peregrine was Duke's #3 corporate contributor last cycle followed by Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc. at #4. He unloads the old house on contributor #4 for twice its value and then uses the money to buy a new house from an exec from contributor #3.

And both transactions are handled by a 'real estate agent' (Elizabeth Todd) who'd never sold a home before and who, along with her family (as we first reported) is one of Cunningham's biggest financial contributors.

Small world, ain't it?

So a question: what was the real market price for the second house?

Coming Soon: Next Wednesday MovingIdeas.org is hosting an online discussion entitled: PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY: HARMFUL TO WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE OF COLOR. Click here for more on who's participating.

Birds of a feather ... (from Reuters)

Spain's previous center-right government "manipulated and twisted" the Madrid train bombings of March 2004 in a bid to salvage general elections three days later, a parliamentary commission found on Wednesday.

Atrios has more here.

And if you're wondering just how lucky President Bush and most of his appointees were to get reelected last November, think this one over.

Mums the word for Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham on what he did for defense contractor Mitchell Wade in exchange for Wade's setting him up with cush housing back home and in DC. So says the hometown paper, the North County Times.

Apparently it was nothing to be too proud of, seeing as Wade resigned as the CEO and president of his company (MZM, Inc.)

But when it comes to the flag-burning amendment Duke's sponsoring in the House, you just can't get him to shut up.

In response to critics of his legislation, Duke said today: "Ask the men and women who stood on top of the (World) Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment."

Coming next, on the ever-evolving <$NoAd$> story of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the best kept man in Congress: more about those Arabic language interpreters MZM supplied for ole' Uncle Sam ...

Very interesting.

In our last post below, we asked just what defense and national security-related services Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc. was providing the US government and whether the fact that Wade had to get Duke Cunningham a house and a boat to secure the contracts tells us anything about the quality of the services Wade's company provides.

Well, tonight in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Marcus Stern -- who broke the story ten days ago -- follows up with some very telling details.

One of the contracts Wade seems to have bought his way into is this one ...

Counter Intelligence Field Activity, a highly secretive program created in 2002 by a Pentagon directive that focuses on gathering intelligence to avert attacks like the ones on Sept. 11, 2001.

I certainly feel better knowing that MZM's got that one covered.

And then there's this (emphasis added) ...

Cunningham is on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the defense appropriations subcommittee, which puts him in position to influence the awarding of defense intelligence contracts.

MZM had 56 such contracts totaling $68,645,909 in fiscal year 2004, according to Keith Ashdown, an analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense. One of those contracts is to provide interpreters in Iraq. For the most part, the contracts were awarded to MZM without competition through a process known as "blanket purchase agreements."

Just gets better and better, doesn't it?

At the risk of asking a really obvious question, lemme ask you a question. And I won't feel that bad for asking it since it must not be that obvious, given that no one is asking it.

So without more ado, here goes ...

We know now that our man Mitchell Wade is into Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Wade) for upwards of a million bucks. Not campaign contributions, mind you, but personal cash bonuses. He also got a yacht for Duke to live on when he was spending time in the capital.

So what's all the money for exactly?

Wade's company doesn't make paper-clips or government issue pencils. His firm provides a mix of defense, homeland security and intelligence-related products or services to the relevant agencies. We don't know precisely what they do since it's all, or most of it is, classified.

But this list of "critical skill areas" in which the company is currently hiring gives some sense of their line of work ..

  • National Intelligence Policy Advisor
  • Subject Matter Experts in Counterintelligence, Homeland Security, Critical Infrastructure Protection and All-Source Intelligence.
  • Systems Integrators/Information Assurance Experts
  • Geospatial Intelligence Analysts
  • Open-Source Analysts
  • Translators
  • HUMINT/SOF Operators
  • Media Exploitation Specialists
  • Counter-IED Specialists

  • In any case, it really seems like Mitchell Wade had to give Duke an awfully good greasing up to get the help he needed with those DOD and Homeland Security contracts.

    And that makes you wonder: Were MZM's services really the best on offer? And why were they having such a hard time getting Pentagon contracts before Mitchell Wade bought Duke's house?

    How about the services MZM is providing in Iraq? I would assume those include the "force protection" services MZM provides. (Note the firms office in Baghdad.) Is anyone there having to make do with second or third best because of Duke Cunningham's new house and his fancy boat?

    Also note that the MZM website proudly notes that the company is "proud to be at the forefront of the war on terrorism, assisting the United States with fighting terrorism and preventing further attacks on our homeland." Are we all on the line for Duke's house?

    Perhaps MZM offers crackerjack services. Maybe MZM just needed Duke to make its corporate voice heard amid DC's current cash-n-carry contracting culture. But doesn't this deserve some looking into?

    TPM Reader JH on Frist (and speaking <$NoAd$> sentiments we share) ...

    Rove & Co. are well aware Frist wants to be Pres. So they tell him they won't support him unless he's their dog. Of course it's likely an elaborate double cross, to simultaneously show him up as a weakling, so that by 2008 he's an even bigger joke than he is now.

    Then there's TPM Reader RK ...

    Hasn't it been obvious since the White House "helped" Lott out? They wanted someone who would do their bidding, and Frist has been their boy since way back.

    And, not that you asked, but: an interesting parlor conversation would discuss who is a bigger wh--e: Frist or McCain? For my money, McCain wins by a mile - Frist has no pretense of being his own man, whereas McCain ran as a pseudo-anti-Bush in 2000, etc.

    I sigh and hope this couldn't be true about Sen. McCain. Alas ...

    Even radio producers can't trust Bill Frist.

    I was on the Al Franken Show today. And just as we were coming back from a break we got the news that Bill Frist had announced he'd seek no more votes on John Bolton's nomination. Then just as we were coming back on the air (maybe a minute later? 90 seconds?), the show's producer hollers out that Frist has already gone back on his pronouncement. Now Frist says the White House has said the president wants another vote. And when the president says, "Jump!", Bill Frist says, "How high?"

    It now seems time to ask a few questions.

    A) Who is the last Senate Majority Leader to have as bad a six months as Bill Frist has just had?

    B) Has Frist's utter fealty to every direction of the White House now become an embarrassment even to members of his own caucus? Just out of some sense of residual institutional prerogative?

    C) What does it say about Bush/Rove's opinion of Frist that they are now happy to humiliate him publicly on something close to a weekly basis.