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."

Ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's bribes put on display

- By SETH HETTENA, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's bribes took up a small corner of a dimly-lit industrial warehouse.

For Cunningham, who formally resigned in disgrace Tuesday, bribes came as French antique dressers with burled walnut fronts and marble tops. Huge hand-woven Persian carpets covered the concrete floor, including one that stretched more than 30 feet and had a $5,500 price tag still attached. A sleigh-style bed lay in pieces.

Federal agents gave local reporters a peek Tuesday at the 40 or so pieces of furniture that were among $2.4 million in bribes that the ex-Vietnam fighter pilot ace admitted receiving from defense contractors and others in exchange for government business and other favors.

Cunningham agreed to forfeit the furnishings from his San Diego-area mansion, along with the mansion itself and $1.8 million cash when he pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to charges of conspiracy and income tax evasion under a deal with prosecutors that could land him in prison for up to 10 years.

The 63-year-old Republican's letter of resignation was read on the House floor Tuesday. Cunningham said he discredited both his office and his party and apologized to his colleagues for the shame he brought to Congress.

"Not only have I compromised the trust of my constituents, I have misled my family, friends, colleagues, staff and even myself," he wrote.

In a warehouse in the San Diego suburb of Poway, camera shutters clicked as appraiser Dave McPheeters peered into dresser drawers, jotted notes on a yellow legal pad and measured the size of Cunningham's carpets.

"Very nice hand-selected pieces," McPheeters remarked. "The condition is good."

Much of it was bought for Cunningham by defense contractor Mitchell Wade. According to Cunningham's plea agreement, Wade spent more than $90,000 to satisfy the swaggering former "Top Gun" flight instructor's taste in antique armoires, nightstands, washstands, silver-plated candelabras and custom oak and leaded glass doors.

Cunningham also sold his home in the seaside community of Del Mar to Wade in 2003 for a price inflated by about $700,000. He used the proceeds to move into a $2.55 million, seven-bath mansion in the exclusive San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe. Copley News Service's disclosure of the home sale triggered the federal investigation that led to Cunningham's downfall.

His furnishings will be sold at an auction and the proceeds will go into the Treasury Asset Forfeiture Fund to support future law enforcement operations, said Tami L. Stine, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service. Stine said the auction will probably take place in the spring, but a date won't be set until the auction is complete.

Agents from the IRS, FBI and Defense Criminal Investigative Service who investigated the former congressman milled about the warehouse. It was their moment.

"This is a culmination of their hard work," Stine said.