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House Members Worried over Cunningham Wire Report
Paul Rodriguez and Anthony Kimery, NewsMax.com
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006




Top Republicans in the House are buzzing - and scrambling - at news alleging that Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former San Diego congressman who's pled guilty to bribery and other illegal activities, was wearing a wire for the FBI during the summer and early fall of 2005.



The undercover operation, according to senior Justice and federal law enforcement, is part of a broadening investigation into the Jack Abramoff bribes-for-favors scandal now roiling Washington.



The disgraced former lawmaker initially began cooperating with federal investigators after they uncovered evidence of his illegal acceptance of bribes in cash and luxury items from at least two small California defense contractors.



Cunningham began cooperating shortly after announcing last summer that he would not run again for Congress and before his November 28, 2005, plea agreement. Court documents reveal he admitted to accepting nearly $2 million in graft money for political favors.



The former Vietnam flying ace and war hero was later brought into the burgeoning Abramoff probe because of his position as a member of Congress with unique access to other Congressmen under scrutiny by a joint Justice Department Public Integrity investigion.




"Cunningham wore a wire on the Hill during meetings with, and meetings set up with, other lawmakers Abramoff was interested in talking to or meeting," a high level federal law enforcement source said without elaborating party affiliations of the targeted lawmakers.



It could not be immediately determined whether Abramoff or others were or are part of the undercover eavesdropping operation involving Cunningham.


"You can assume any private meeting Cunningham had with legislators pertaining to Abramoff were recorded," the high-level federal law enforcement source said. "It does not mean [these lawmakers] are under investigation. But some are. There will be repercussions"


"This will go up the food chain," the source added ominously, implying Cunningham's wire may have ensnared Congressional leaders.



Over eighty members and congressional staff are, according to a senior Senate investigator, under scrutiny for political kickbacks, bribes, and political favors on behalf of Abramoff. The scandal is said to include lobbyists, political operatives in Washington and a number of government officials including high-level aides.


The result of whatever cooperation Cunningham provided has, according to the high-level federal law enforcement official, is that specific legislation is being closely scrutinized to find Abramoff's fingerprints on legislative action as part of his bribes-for-favors criminal activities.


The high-level federal law enforcement source implied other members of Congress are directly implicated.


"Interpret as you will," the source said.

"There will be a leak investigation on this, too. If there are further leaks it could jeopardize on-going investigations developed from the taps."


Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent an urgent email to all House Republicans late January 6, 2006, alerting lawmakers and top GOP staff to a breaking story by Time magazine's online news site with the following headline: "Disgraced Congressman 'Wore a Wire'"



The TIME article, by former Roll Call reporter Tim Burger, says Cunningham began cooperating with federal authorities shortly after he announced in the summer that he was resigning. The magazine's online story does not provide any specifics on the alleged wire caper. [Editor's Note: journalist Paul Rodriguez was tipped off to Cunningham's "wire" over three weeks ago but at the request of a top federal government official withheld initial publication because it would have seriously compromised an ongoing and "sensitive" criminal investigation involving Abramoff and others. The TIME magazine article made the confidentiality pledge moot.]



Capitol Hill leaders, as far as can be determined, were unaware of Cunningham's secret spying operations, including at meetings at the Armed Services Committee, with staff and others.



Capitol Hill Shocked



Several members of Congress were both shocked and angry at hearing the news. Rumors have been flying recently that up to a dozen members of Congress are tied in to the Abramoff scandal.



With news of Cunningham's informant role leaking, many members in the House Republican Conference are quite worried where the corruption probes will go next.



"I'm glad I didn't talk with that son of a bitch," said one senior GOP lawmaker who has heard rumors in the members' dining room and in the Republican cloakroom just off the floor of the House about the wire.



"Word is that Duke was not working alone [on getting sweet heart deals from some defense contractors] and this tells me [on top of the Abramoff breaking news] that it's worse than we thought."



The House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Pete Hoekstra and co-chair Jane Harmon, has launched its own separate investigation into the Cunningham affair as a result of the former congressman's membership on the panel.



House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, a close friend of Cunningham, has indicated he is willing to probe any links between Cunningham and the panel's work. To date, Hunter has not formally launched such an investigation.



A senior Capitol Hill official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsMax, "Holy sh-t! This is going to rock the place. Duke knew everybody and cut deals all the time."



This same official said that it was doubtful that Justice Department and FBI officials would have told congressional leadership or the Capitol Police given the sensitivity of the probe.



"I can tell you this though, it's going to cause a major ruckus with the leadership that a secret probe was going on under their noses and they were not informed," the Capitol Hill source said.



Federal probes of Capitol Hill activities are not new.



It was 15 years ago that a joint Postal Inspection Service and FBI probe was launched on Capitol Hill to investigate allegations of corruption involving employees of the House Post Office. That probe, which Capitol Police had initially conducted but then felt was stymied by congressional leaders and turned over to the FBI, ultimately resulted in the conviction of nearly two dozen Congressional staff and notably the then Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski.



In all, the House Post Office scandal led to the resignation and defeat of nearly 100 members of Congress and helped propel the Republican takeover of the House in 1994. At the time, the Post Office scandal was paralleled by the House Bank check-kiting scandal.



The Abramoff scandal has been played in the mainstream press as mostly a Republican-tied debacle.



But its tentacles continue to draw in many Democrats, including leadership lawmakers who received gifts and donations from the lobbyist, his associates, and his clients.



Who or what information was caught on the federal wires that Cunningham provided -- from physically wearing a wire, to phone intercepts and electronic monitoring of meetings through other means - is unknown.



But speculation among GOP lawmakers, federal law enforcement officials and lobbyists (some of whom have been contacted by the FBI) is that several close friends of Cunningham were unknowingly caught in incriminating conversations.



"This is huge," one lawmaker exclaimed who has heard the rumors of Cunningham's secret wire-related activities. "Several of us were warned to steer clear of him on the advice of friends."



A Justice Department spokesman in Washington, D.C., declined to answer any questions about the allegations of Cunningham cooperating with a federal electronics sting-type operation.



Calls to the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego were not immediately returned.



Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Administration Committee, is alleged to be a target of the Abramoff investigators. NewsMax has learned that several of his top staff both in Washington and in Ohio has been subpoenaed for records.



Ney has denied any wrongdoing involving Abramoff despite being identified as "Representative #1" who accepted financial favors from the former lobbyists.
 

Mike

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Bet you couldn't drive a greased 20 penny nail in a single butthole on the hill with a 10 lb hammer these days.
 
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Conservative Republican news reporter Robert Novak was on FOX news tonite and predicted these ethic investigations could be tough on Republicans in this years elections...He thinks Republicans can retain the Senate, but believes they could lose the House........
 

Disagreeable

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Oldtimer said:
Conservative Republican news reporter Robert Novak was on FOX news tonite and predicted these ethic investigations could be tough on Republicans in this years elections...He thinks Republicans can retain the Senate, but believes they could lose the House........

It's a big stetch for Dems to win the House back. I think they have to win 15 seats and not lose a one. That's not likely to happen. Just the thought of Republicans in the House that are willing to work with Dems for the country instead of big business makes me happy.
 

nenmrancher

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the whole dang bunch needs to be cleaned out, and for dis I mean both republicans and dems. The only ones that are not worried are the ones who think they have covered their tracks better than the others
 

Steve

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And then let everyone only be allowed to serve one term. That way it will take a thousand years to recreate this mess.

Term limits for all elected positions would be a great start. Moderatly two consecutive terms would be fair, as three seems to allow to much power consolidation.







Did you take your medication before writing that post as it seemed normal?
(goes to show giving free perscription drugs was a great idea)
 

Steve

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I have no way of knowing if this is true, (I doubt it is) but I am very familiar with the experience of being misunderstood.

I guess since no one can understand you, Maybe you should take the Europeans advice and ask yourself what is wrong with you.









And as an american since I know something is wrong with you, I should just ignore you....
 

jigs

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the problem with term limits is quite simple.
who is gonna get a job where you have people do all your background work, and you just show up and vote, get a huge pay check, all the kick backs you can hide, and a retirment program that is greater than anything imaginable....then vote to limit that job to just a few years ???

we need to clean the hen house, I think it was Ben Franklin who said something to the effect that no man should ever hold office unless he has ran a farm. I remember that from FFA classes....not sure on the quote, but that is close.
 

Disagreeable

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When the Republicans took control of the House ten years ago, their "Contract with America" included term limits. But they didn't fulfill that part of the contract. They discovered being in charge was a lot of fun and financially rewarding.
 

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