Cunninham's Legal Costs Raise Concern

Congressman May Not Be Able To Use Campaign Funds

POSTED: 10:19 am PDT July 19, 2005

SAN DIEGO -- Federal officials say U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham might not be able to access campaign funds to cover legal costs as he battles ethics and possible criminal charges, it was reported Tuesday.

The law allows congressional representatives to use campaign funds to pay for legal fees that arise out of their work as lawmakers.

Last month, a Federal Election Commission official told the North County Times that Cunningham, R-San Diego, could use those funds for his legal fees.

But another commission official at the agency's Washington headquarters said Monday that Cunningham's attorneys may need to get approval before gaining access to the campaign funds, the Times reported.

Former Rep. James Trafficant, an Ohio Democrat, was blocked by the commission from using his campaign account for legal fees in a 2002 bribery trial, commission spokesman Ian Stirton told the Times.

The latest financial data reported by the Federal Election Commission Monday shows Cunningham had $672,144 in his Friends of Duke Cunningham campaign committee, the Times reported.

Cunningham announced last week that he will not seek re-election after his current term because of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into his dealings with a defense contractor.

Cunningham has hired O'Melveny & Myers to represent him.

Cunningham could form a legal defense fund to which people can contribute, similar to what House Majority Leader Tom DeLay did to fight allegations of ethics violations, the Times reported.

Cunningham, while denying wrongdoing, said he showed "poor judgement" after details of the November 2003 sale of his Del Mar Heights home came to light.

MZM Inc. defense contractor Mitchell Wade bought the residence for $1.67 million, then resold it eight months later at a $700,000 loss. Cunningham used the proceeds from the sale to buy a home in Rancho Santa Fe.
Copyright 2004 by 10News.com


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