Representative Cunningham Must Step Down from Key Committees, Face House Ethics Investigation

Common Cause on Tuesday called on Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) to give up his seats on a defense appropriations subcommittee and the Intelligence Committee in light of published reports alleging the connection between his support for a multi-million dollar defense contract to Mitchell Wade, president of MZM Inc., and Wade’s purchase of Representative Cunningham’s home at a huge personal profit to the congressman.

In addition, Common Cause called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Representative Cunningham violated House rules by receiving personal compensation from a defense contractor in return for his influence in Congress.

Common Cause sent letters to Representative Cunningham, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and each member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, also known as the Ethics Committee, urging that an investigation be launched and that Representative Cunningham step down from both of these key committees handling sensitive information and decisions during a time of war.

“The allegations about Representative Cunningham call into question his ability to exercise effective and trustworthy oversight in his role as a member of the Intelligence Committee, as well as his ability to manage taxpayer dollars,” Common Cause President Chellie Pingree wrote in the letter.

According to published reports, Representative Cunningham sold his California home to Wade, the president of MZM, Inc. in 2003 for $1.6 million. Wade sold the house less than a year later for $975,000, taking a loss of nearly $700,000. Independent real estate agents have publicly stated that the $1.6 million price was well above fair market value for the house, and the significant loss realized by Wade at the sale of the house appears to confirm this.

Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers as part of a grand jury investigation into the relationship between Representative Cunningham and Wade, which charge that Representative Cunningham “demanded and received” a bribe from Wade in the form of the overpayment for Representative Cunningham’s house. “Cunningham demanded and received this money in return for being influenced in the performance of his official acts as a public official,” according to the court filing.

Around the time of the sale of the house, Representative Cunningham advocated for the award of defense contracts to Wade’s company, MZM, which was “seeking to earn substantial income from contracts with the United States.” Representative Cunningham supported MZM’s bid for tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense.

“Because Representative Cunningham’s conduct is related to his influence over the awarding of defense contracts and this influence derives principally from his capacity as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense, we demand that Representative Cunningham give up his seat on this committee. Given the sensitivity and importance of the awarding of defense contracts, especially during a time of war, it is not unreasonable to hold members of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense to a higher standard of ethical conduct and to act decisively when credible allegations of the misuse of a committee member’s influence emerge,” Pingree wrote.

Furthermore, Pingree wrote that because of the nature of Representative Cunningham’s actions, Common Cause demanded that Representative Cunningham also step down from the Intelligence Committee. “The reported facts about Representative Cunningham call into question his ability to exercise effective and trustworthy oversight,” Pingree wrote.

To view the letter to Representative Cunningham, click here:{FB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665}/CUNNINGHAM LETTER 9-13-05-FINAL.PDF

To view the letter to Speaker Hastert, click here:{FB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665}/CUNNINGHAM-HASTERT 9-13-05.PDF

To view the letter to the House Ethics Committee, click here:{FB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665}/CUNNINGHAM ETHICS COMM. 9-13-05.PDF