Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bribe me a river

It sure is fun piling on a disgraced congressman, particularly one who refers to himself as "The Dukester."

Actually, that's what he called his yacht, acquired in exchange for illegal favors.

History will remember him as the most corrupt legislator in American history, a designation that should merit some special prize. Perhaps a funny hat? Or a conjugal visit from a fellow prisoner named "Duke"?

Prosecutors call it a corruption case with no parallel. And it keeps getting worse. Convicted U.S. Rep. Randall Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee from 1998 to 2005, actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for Cunningham's sentencing hearing this Friday.

"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes," the sentencing memorandum states, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."

Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican's "bribery menu" on one of his congressional note cards, "starkly framed" under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

The government's sentencing memorandum against Cunningham also details, with photographs included, the luxury vehicles, yachts, homes, antique furniture and Persian rugs that Cunningham received as bribes.

***Pictured: Cunnigham's Rancho Santa Fe estate

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