Cunningham: I’m a Liar and a Crook

Even after Duke Cunningham pled guilty to accepting millions in bribes, he’d still tried to cast himself as somehow less than thoroughly greedy and corrupt. He’d accepted gifts from defense contractors, yes, and sure, he’d been instrumental in procuring tens of millions in government contracts for them, but that doesn’t mean they were bribes.

Well, a year in prison seems to have clarified things for Cunningham. Investigators sat down with him in February of this year, and as the FBI’s summary, obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, shows, Cunningham was straightforward about the extent of his corruption: He asked for, got, and worked to conceal bribes.

That’s bad news for Brent Wilkes, who’s been indicted for bribing Cunningham. Wilkes has gamely argued that he didn’t bribe Cunningham, so much as play the game the way it has to be played. “Transactional lobbying,” is Wilkes’ name for it, and that’s apparently what he plans to argue to a jury — that he was extorted, that he was a victim of Washington’s culture.

Unfortunately for Wilkes, Cunningham says the two went to an awful lot of trouble to conceal their activity. As the Union-Trib points out, that means Cunningham will likely make an appearance at Wilkes’ trial as an unfriendly witness. Cunningham also confirms that Wilkes procured prostitutes for the both of them during a trip to Hawaii, something that Wilkes has denied (Cunningham says that Wilkes took the “younger and cuter” one for himself).There were a couple more notable revelations concerning some old questions: Cunningham says that there were no prostitutes at those Watergate poker games. Mitchell Wade, the other of Cunningham’s main bribes, has reportedly told investigators otherwise.

The FBI report and an earlier search warrant affidavit from the investigation also revealed that Thomas Kontogiannis, the shadowy Greek businessman who’s pled guilty to channeling corrupt payments to Cunningham, was more involved than previously known. Kontogiannis not only bribed Cunningham himself, but also laundered more than $1 million in bribes from Wilkes — something made easy through his more than 70 bank accounts. And in return for all that help, Kontogiannis apparently wanted help with a sale of fighter jets to Greece. That’s in addition to his known use of Cunningham to meet leaders like President Bush and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

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