Goode’s contributions certainly look coerced.

Things are real rough at MZM, Inc. these days. The ever-worsening scandal over their pay-for-play relationship with Congressmen — including Reps. Randy “Duke” Cummingham (R-CA), Virgil Goode (R-VA), and Katherine Harris (R-FL) — has left the company spiraling downward. CEO, president, and founder Mitchell Wade resigned, leaving the company COO, Frank Bragg, as the CEO and president. Bragg quit after a week on the job, the same day as Kay Cole James, the company’s senior executive vice president for national security transformation, who quit after her first month. (Those of you playing at home may recognize her name. That’s because her prior job was President Bush’s Director of Office of Personnel Management. Let’s just say that job ended badly. Before that she was at the Heritage Foundation and, before that, Secretary of Health and Human Resources for Gov. George Allen here in Virginia.) Several other employees quit on Friday, too — like rats from a sinking ship. The latest CEO and president in the series, James King, has announced that the company is for sale. But they probably won’t get much in the way of offers since, as the Post reports this morning, the Pentagon has ordered a halt to all new contracts for MZM. Worse still, the president is getting dragged into this. MZM’s first contract — a $140,000 deal for White House office furniture in 2002 — was followed up one month later by the purchase of a $140,000 yacht, which was named after Rep. Duke Cunningham, since he was awarded exclusive use of it.

Things aren’t looking much better for Rep. Virgil Goode, our local man in the scandal. It’s been alleged by top executives at MZM that employees were forced — under penalty of being fired — to donate to Goode, with Goode’s knowledge of this coercion [1, 2], with the resulting torrent of money (over $100,000 to Goode) being enough to cause MZM president Mitchell Wade to brag that he “owns” Virgil Goode . Now, that’s a pretty serious allegation, but it should be pretty easy to disprove, if it’s false.

For example, if the contributions from MZM employees were spread out over the course of months or years, that would certainly point away from an order coming down for everybody to simultaneously contribute. Or if MZM employees had a history of supporting Rep. Goode, that would also indicate that their interests just happened to align. Or MZM employees had given money to a good number of candidates, it would indicate a general political atmosphere out of which support for a candidate friendly to MZM would be likely. All of these factors would point to candidates giving of their own free will, and the charges that Goode knowingly accepted forced contributions could be ignored.

On a tip from a reader, I did the math today. I looked over every clear, recent contribution to Rep. Goode, looking solely employees of MZM (other than Wade) who gave money to Goode directly in the past two years. I did not look at individuals who contributed to MZM’s PAC (which, in turn, gave to Goode) but not Goode. That’s a total of 44 contributions from 37 sources, totaling $58,426.

The first thing I noticed is that there’s a curious pattern to when the contributions come in. See if you can pick it out.
Graph of contributions

Funny looking graph, isn’t it? Rather than contributions coming in gradually, over time, they all come in little clumps. Very few of them, in fact. In a two-week span in 2003, over $22,000 came in. That’s the entirety of the money that came in from MZM employees for the whole of the year, in two little weeks. Just one little blip in 2004 (that’s two contributions of $500 — a little odd for an election year in which Goode was challenged), and then, wham, March hits again, and another $34,625 rolls in, this time in the span of just over a week.

What a funny thing! Now, I didn’t do real well in statistics class, but I do remember normal distributions. The idea is that, with a natural sample of data, it should cluster around a peak, and drop off on either side. If the chart looks otherwise, then you have a good idea that your sample is too small, your data is wrong, or your sample has been artificially manipulated. So if you looked at a graph of contributions to an incumbent, you’d expect a peak shortly before an election, and a fall-off on either side. Let’s see how a chart of contributions from MZM employees to Rep. Goode looks.

Graph of contributions, smoothed

Wow! If that were on my final exam, I’d say that it’s such a long way from a normal distribution as to indicate that surely the sample had been artificially manipulated.

So, the dates are crazy. That doesn’t look so good for MZM or Rep. Goode — it seems to support MZM employees who said that they were made to line up and write checks while a candidate (Harris or Goode — it hasn’t been said which) watched, waiting for their money. So many checks at one time sure looks like a cash conga line was formed.

But maybe Goode can be saved by the political activity of these contributors. Let’s look at the number of MZM employees who gave to Goode who also gave to a candidate other than those in question — Katherine Harris and Duke Cunningham — in the same time period. Again, I think a graph would be helpful.

Graph of contributions

Oh, man. That’s rough.

But, surely, some of these employees have, at some point in their lives, given to some federal candidate at some level, right? I mean, they can’t have all simultaneously, suddenly started giving to candidates, and started with Virgil Goode, could they? It just seems so unlikely. Let’s look at a graph of the percent that have ever supported another candidate:

Graph of contributions

Oh, jeez. That’s gonna leave a mark.

Two MZM employees, Kenneth Geide and Christopher Rosche, supported Elizabeth Dole in 2002. That’s it for them.

To recap: 35 MZM employees had never given any money to a federal candidate before. 37 MZM employees simultaneously contributed to Rep. Virgil Goode on two occasions, in March of 2003 and March of 2005. None of these MZM employees have given any money to any other candidate in the past two years, other than a few who gave money to MZM’s other darling, Katherine Harris. 10 of them also gave to MZM’s PAC.

And we’re to believe that MZM did not coerce their employees to support Virgil Goode? Between the claims of MZM employees that they were forced into and the empirical evidence, nobody can seriously claim that these employees contributed to Virgil Goode of their own free will. Goode still hasn’t commented on this (other than some pap to the Richmond Times-Dispatch). If he’s got something to say for himself, he’d best start talking.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “Goode’s contributions certainly look coerced.”

  1. Wow! This is very impressive work and extremely powerful evidence against Goode. Great work, Waldo!!

    One quibble: on your first graph, you have “total income” on the y-axis, but your labels are dates. And you have “date” on the x-axis, but your labels are total income. Unless I’m missing something here…

  2. Waldo- Great investigative reporting!

    As I have told you for years, your strength lies in having the instinct to see straight through to the heart of a issue and having the intellect, curiosity and energy to make it plain to all the rest of us.

    You could easily be the next Mike Wallace-whether in print or on the airways. And if you do not take that route, then you definitely will be one hell-raising politician.

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