Tuesday, November 29

Republican Representative from San Diego Resigns Amid Scandal

Mr. Cunningham, an eight-term Republican representative from San Diego, pleaded guilty on Monday to charges that he took at least $2.4 million in bribes to steer Pentagon contracts to two friends. He announced his resignation from Congress hours after entering his plea...

The case intensified attention to charges of ethical and legal violations by members of Congress, including such influential leaders as Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader in the Senate, and Representative Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in Texas in September...

According to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Mr. Cunningham, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from two military contractors while helping them win Pentagon contracts.

Lawyers involved in the case identified the contractors as Mitchell J. Wade, founder of MZM Inc., a company he has since sold that provides intelligence services to the Pentagon and other government agencies, and Brent Wilkes, founder of a data processing company that did business with the Defense Department.

Prosecutors said the contractors also gave Mr. Cunningham hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts, including a Rolls-Royce, two 19th-century French commodes, four armoires, a wooden sideboard with turned wooden spindles, three nightstands, a necklace, a laser shooting simulator and $15,000 worth of Oriental carpets (described in court documents as "one Indo Herati, one Karaja, one Indo Keshan and two Cino Kerman rugs").

The contractors also paid for tens of thousands of dollars' worth of repairs to the Rolls-Royce and to Mr. Cunningham's boat, the Kelly C, and essentially bought the former congressman a $2.55 million home in the exclusive San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe.

Under the plea deal, Mr. Cunningham has to forfeit the house, $1.8 million in cash, and all the rugs and antiques. Carol C. Lam, the United States attorney for the Southern District of California, called Mr. Cunningham's actions "a crime of unprecedented magnitude and extraordinary audacity." Ms. Lam said the investigation was continuing.