Duke Worked Hard for His Money

March 1, 2006 12:50 p.m.
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Great moments in corruption, courtesy of the United States Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of California.

On at least six different occasions, Duke Cunningham personally contacted Defense officials to demand that his favorite defense contractors, Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, got their money.

A sampling of those and other high points from the prosecutors’ latest:

7/6/99 – Brent Wilkes faxes a set of “Talking Points” to Duke so that he can competently champion Wilkes’ cause.

1999 – A Defense official, in the course of reviewing a number of invoices from Wilkes’ company, determines that $750,000 of them are fraudulent. The official calls Wilkes and tells him the DoD is not paying. Soon after, the official receives a call from Duke, demanding to know why Wilkes’ isn’t getting paid. The official explains. Duke hangs up on him.

Duke calls the official’s supervisor to complain.

1999 – A Defense official gets what he/she thinks to be an over-inflated invoice from Brent Wilkes’ company. Wilkes tries to plead with the official, saying that “he needed the money to make a balloon payment or he would lose his company.” The official is “unmoved.”

Cunningham calls three separate times to demand payment to Wilkes. Wilkes then meets again with the official, has Cunningham call his cell phone, then passes the phone to the official to explain again why Wilkes isn’t getting his money.

2001 – A Defense official moves $2-3M away from a $10M appropriation for Brent Wilkes’ ADCS. Wilkes complains to Duke, who summons the defense official to a meeting. He berates the official; the official doesn’t budge. Duke subsequently contacts the official’s supervisor and demands that he/she be fired for not being a “team player.”

9/27/02 – Duke Cunningham’s frightened staffers email back and forth, anticipating the return of the “big chinchilla” after he’s found out that his beloved defense contractor’s programs have been cut. “I’m under my desk ducking and covering” says one.

Minutes later, he returns: “He stormed into his office, pissed, and said he might as well become a Democrat.”

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