House speaker says Cunningham faces 'serious consequences' North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

The resignation of former North County Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was officially accepted by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.

Also on Tuesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert issued a written statement that praised Cunningham's service during the Vietnam War but attacked his former colleague for his misdeeds.

Hastert called the 63-year-old Cunningham "a war hero" whose Vietnam service earned him deep respect in the halls of Congress.

But Hastert, R-Illinois, said Cunningham violated that trust when he accepted more than $2.4 million in bribes from two defense contractors and two others.

"The public trust he has built through his military and congressional career has been violated," Hastert wrote. "The behavior by U.S. Rep. Cunningham is unacceptable. No one is above the law. He will find that his actions will have serious consequences."

Cunningham faces a possible prison term of 10 years and a fine at $350,000 when he appears before U.S. District Court Judge Larry Alan Burns in San Diego. Last Monday, Cunningham pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of tax evasion in a plea deal worked out with the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego.

A short time later, a subdued and shaken Cunningham, R-Escondido, appeared before reporters and read a statement apologizing for his actions and asking for forgiveness.

He also announced he would resign from Congress. That resignation occurred Thursday, when Cunningham notified Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of his decision.

Calls to his former congressional office are now answered with the phrase "50th Congressional District office," rather than "Office of Rep. Randy Cunningham."

Shortly after the House reconvened Tuesday following its Thanksgiving recess, Cunningham's resignation was read into the record and accepted, an action that occurred at 2:02 p.m. Washington time.

Cunningham remains free on his personal recognizance pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 27 but could be delayed if ongoing investigations into his co-conspirators ---- alleged to be Mitchell Wade of MZM Inc. of Washington, Brent Wilkes of ADCS Inc. in Poway and two other unidentified ---- are complete.

Cunningham and his wife have separated, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times on Monday. The couple are no longer living in the Rancho Santa Fe mansion that became the focal point of a federal investigation into his activities.

A legal defense fund started by Cunningham to pay his attorneys fees will be shut down soon, although the exact timing of that action is not certain.

The Democratic Party is seizing on Cunningham's downfall, issuing news releases in Washington and San Diego highlighting Republican lawmakers in California who have accepted contributions from Cunningham and from ADCS and MZM Inc.

"Even though so many of their Republican colleagues have done the right thing and returned or donated the contributions they received from Cunningham and other individuals involved in this scandal, these California members of Congress continue the culture of corruption by holding fast to the tainted campaign cash," Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a written statement.� "The California families they represent deserve better than pay-to-play representation for the special interests and against the interests of California families."


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