Beltway Insiders

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-04-02 Print this article Print

Two contractors—including one who maintains his innocence and another who pleaded guilty—were among the targets of a federal probe that got Congressman Cunningham locked up.

The Congressman: Randall “Duke” Cunningham
A Navy flying ace during the Vietnam War who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. The California Republican resigned from the House in disgrace in 2005 after it was discovered that he had received millions of dollars in bribes for using his influence to help two I.T. contractors win several hundred million dollars in Pentagon contracts. Cunningham is currently in prison, serving a term of eight years and four months.

The Contractors:

Brent Roger Wilkes
In 1995, San Diego businessman Wilkes started a system integration and software company called ADCS (an acronym for Automated Document Conversion Systems) in Poway, Calif. Soon after he began making contacts in Washington, according to the Justice Department, Wilkes and another contractor gave Cunningham at least $2.4 million in bribes. In turn, ADCS got at least $80 million in Department of Defense and intelligence contracts, the government claims. Wilkes has been indicted but vehemently maintains his innocence.

Mitchell J. Wade
The head of MZM, a high-tech national security outfit based in Washington, Wade, according to the Justice Department, began receiving major Department of Defense and intelligence contracts after he began wining and dining Cunningham at some of the most expensive restaurants in Washington, also plying him with antiques, expensive cars and the services of call girls, and providing him with under-the-table payments. The Justice Department claims MZM gained more than $160 million in Pentagon contracts between 2002 and 2005, thanks largely to Cunningham. On Feb. 24, 2006, Wade pleaded guilty to lavishing more than $1 million in bribes on Cunningham. He is said to be cooperating with federal investigators and faces up to 11 years and three months incarceration.

The Watchdog: Scott Amey
The general counsel of the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Amey says the Cunningham scandal underscores the alltoo cozy relationships between lawmakers and contractors. “It’s time for Congress … to look at itself and the way that it works currently,” he says.

The Prosecutor: Carol Lam, U.S. Attorney
Last year, Lam led the case to convict Cunningham of tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud. On Feb. 13, 2007, she won indictments against Brent Wilkes. Two days later, she was fired by the Justice Department. Some congressional critics charged Lam was too focused on investigating lawmakers at the expense of important issues like immigration. Lam has declined all requests for interviews.

The Ex-CIA Analyst: Melvin Goodman
Goodman was a senior analyst in Soviet affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he worked for two decades (1966-1986). He later served as a Soviet analyst at the State Department, and he is currently professor of international studies at the National War College and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Goodman says that the CIA’s vaunted Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T), which once formed “the strongest technical team in the intelligence community,” has been made far less effective because of political in-fighting with the Pentagon and reduced resources.


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