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CA Congressman Resigns After Admitting He Accepted Bribes

By John M. Broder
THE NEW YORK TIMES


LOS ANGELES

Rep. Randy Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, resigned from Congress on Monday, hours after pleading guilty to taking at least $2.4 million in bribes to help friends and campaign contributors win defense contracts.

Cunningham, a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam, tearfully acknowledged his guilt in a statement read outside the federal courthouse in San Diego.

“The truth is, I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office,” the eight-term congressman known for his emotional outbursts and combative conservatism said. “I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions and, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.”

Cunningham, 63, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, tax evasion, wire fraud and mail fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures.

Prosecutors said he received cash, cars, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees, moving expenses and vacations from four unnamed co-conspirators in exchange for aid in winning defense contracts. None of this income was reported to the Internal Revenue Service or on the congressman’s financial disclosure forms, the government said.

Cunningham, who is known as Duke, lived while in Washington on a 42-foot yacht, named the Duke-Stir, owned by Mitchell J. Wade, the founder of MZM Inc., a defense contracting firm that received tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts that prosecutors said Cunningham helped steer its way.

Cunningham served on the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and as chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence.

“He did the worst thing an elected official can do,” Carol C. Lam, the U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “He enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there.”

Cunningham’s plea adds to the ethics cloud over the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush White House.

In the Senate, Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and the majority leader, is under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the timing of his trades in the stock of his family’s health care company.