Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Washington's Lobbying Culture, Part VI:
USN&WR Continues to Peel the Rancid Onion
On Crooked Congressman Duke Cunningham

Back in July, I mentioned a fine Vanity Fair piece (not online) on the continuing investigation into jail bird and former California Congressman Duke Cunnigham, as well as linked to the Washington Post's superior package on the sprawling probes into all the corruption associated with uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. You can consider that Part 5 of a continuing series on this subject. Parts 1-4 were covered (or linked to) here.

Anyway, last week, #3-but-trying-harder newsweekly U.S. News & World Report ran this pungent enterprise piece, which advances the Cunningham story considerably. Prosecutors are rightly calling this perhaps the most brazen case of Congressional corruption in American history, which would take some doing (the only annoying thing about the piece, in fact, is that the magazine's website forces you to click to each of a dozen pages to read it all rather than giving you a single-page print option. This kind of stuff went out of style several years ago at more enlightened operations).

The piece contains some devastating new detail about the favorite target of Cunningham's largesse, MZM, Inc., a shop short on real capabilities but long on former senior government officials who were hungry to capitalize on their old contacts to enrich themselves in the private sector. That, and its special relationship with Duke Cunningham, were good enough to land $65 million in defense contracts in one year alone. But give jailbird Cunningham his due. At least he wasn't completely greedy. He did offer discounts on his favors: at one point, according to prosecutors, he marked his services all the way down to $25,000 in payoffs for each $1 million in earmarked federal defense contracts he agreed to write into appropriations legislation. Apparently he forgot the ancient wisdom about never selling yourself short.


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