Randy "Duke" Cunningham is the 63 year old tough talking Vietnam Veteran Navy pilot turned conservative Republican Congressman. His conviction on Federal charges of bribery made resignation inevitable even in an era of rampant neo-conservative contempt for traditional republican virtues. He had "represented" the 50th Congressional District of California.
Randy Cunningham grew up in Shelbina, Missouri, a town in the northeast part of the state, and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri in 1964 and 1965, respectively. In 1966 he joined the U.S. Navy in 1966, eventually becoming a pilot. During his service Cunningham flew an carrier based Phantom and recorded five confirmed "kills", thus making him a "Flying Ace". He allegedly also downed a Vietnamese fighter ace who flew a MiG-17 against him.
Returning from Vietnam in 1972, he became an instructor at the Navy's TOPGUN school for fighter pilots at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, California. In 1985 Cunningham earned a MBA from National University. He retired from the Navy in 1987, but success eluded him in business or teaching. He broke out of post-miltiary retirement obscurity in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War as a CNN commentator on naval aircraft during the Persian Gulf War. This lead to him to being approached by Republican leaders to run for Congress.
In recent years, "We had 100,000 applicants for CIA," commented Cunningham during an October 19 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. "You know how many got looked at? Thirty thousand. Seventy thousand never even got a letter back. That's bad." The California Republican was a reliable proponent of unbending secrecy in all intelligence matters. On at least two occasions, in 1997 and 2000, he voted against public disclosure of the aggregate intelligence budget figure, presumably because that would somehow damage national security. Source: Secrecy News November 30, 2005. Source: SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy Volume 2005, Issue No. 109 November 30, 2005.
In 2003, Cunningham threatened Michigan congressman Nick Smith's son Brad in retaliation for Nick's "no" vote on the Medicare bill.
Cunningham, although normally fiercely anti-choice, recently voiced support for stem cell research. While he will never find himself with an unwanted pregnancy, he might benefit from some medical treatment emerging from stem cell research.
During portions of 2004 and 2005, Cunningham lived on a boat provided by and sold his home for approximately $700,000 more than it was worth to one Mitchell Wade, who runs the defense contractor MZM. Two other friends of Cunningham's were Brent Wilkes, chairman of ADCS, and Thomas T. Kontogiannis, a real-estate developer.
On Monday, November 28, 2005 Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and tax evasion for under-reporting his income in 2004. The Republican answered "yes, your honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes in exchange for his performance of official duties. Among the goodies accepted as bribes by the tough guy politician were 40 pieces of antique furniture and a 30 foot hand-woven Persian carpet with a $5,500 price tag still attached!
On January 6, 2006, Time magazine reported that Cunningham had been wearing a hidden recording device in the days before his public confession. Many other politicians have received contributions from MZM, ADCS or their corporate affliates, including Tom DeLay, Virgil Goode, Bob Ney, Jerry Lewis.
On March 3, 2006, Cunningham was sentenced to 8 years, 4 months in prison, and was immediately taken into custody. His sentence was the longest ever given to a member of Congress.
- Eliot Spagat. "Rep. Cunningham Pleads Guilty: Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Tax Evasion." Associated Press. November 28, 2005.
- Seth Hettena. "Reporters Get Peek at Cunningham's Bribes." Associated Press. December 6, 2005.
- "Duke" of Deception, by Laura Rozen, The American Prospect, Vol. 17, No. 2, February 2006, p. 11.
- "The Wrong Stuff - The Extraordinary Saga of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, The Most Corrupt Congressman Ever Caught"
By Marcus Stern, Jerry Kammer, Dean Calbreath and George E. Condon Jr., Public Affairs, New York, 2007