A reader pointed out Charles Babcock’s article in today’s Washington Post about the latest on Randy “Duke” Cunningham and MZM, Inc. What we knew before was that Cunningham — who resigned his U.S. House seat in disgrace in November — had confessed to and been convicted of accepting $2.4M in bribe money from two contractors, chiefly MZM, Inc.
(I’ve followed this story closely because my congressman, Rep. Virgil Goode, was the single largest recipient of contributions from MZM, nearly $100,000 — my analysis and USA Today’s analysis showed that Goode appeared to have accepted the money illegally. Goode caved in December and gave away the tainted money, in hopes that would end the story.)
Babcock’s story reveals that prosecutors have recommended a pretty serious punishment for Cunningham: a ten year jail sentence. Why? It turns out that he created a “bribe menu” — a price sheet printed on his own congressional letterhead that he gave to MZM giving his bribery price structure. The price structure was $50,000 in bribe money for every $1,000,000 in federal contracts. When the total came to $340,000, the price per million dropped to $25,000. Worse still, he tried to cover his tracks once the feds got wise to him, including tampering with witnesses and fabricating evidence.
This new information leads me to wonder how deep into this scandal that we really are. In the cases of both Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff, we’ve discovered that the rabbit hole goes a great deal deeper. Did Rep. Goode rid himself of the money because it was a public image problem? Or because he knew that contrition could earn him credit with prosecutors down the line, prosecutors who had seen no such contrition from Goode’s former colleague on the House Appropriations Committee?