At Duke's place, bribery was on the menu

As judge weighs sentence for former GOP congressman, prosecutors reveal more evidence of corruption.

Published February 21, 2006 3:17PM (EST)

Sometimes the stories of money in politics are complicated -- if Jack Abramoff was paid $1.2 million to arrange a visit between George W. Bush and the prime minister of Malaysia, what does it say about relations between Abramoff and the White House? -- and sometimes they're not.

You can put the Duke Cunningham story in the second category.

As part of the sentencing process for the former Republican congressman, federal prosecutors are introducing more evidence of the rather breathtaking bribes Cunningham demanded and received from defense contractors. A highlight: A "bribe menu," written in Cunningham's handwriting on official House of Representatives stationery, in which the congressman set out the amounts of government business a defense contractor might want and the bribes Cunningham would expect in exchange for steering that business his way.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune explains, the bribes Cunningham took range from "the routine" to "the peculiar" to "the truly astonishing": meals and travel, a laser shooting simulator, cars, yachts, houses and antiques as well as $1 million in good, old-fashioned checks and wire transfers. To cover his tracks along the way, the paper says, Cunningham tried to persuade a real estate agent, a rug dealer and others to lie on his behalf and rejected a suspicious staffer's demand that he resign. "Persian rugs were delivered to [Cunningham's] district office, and a staff member delivered a cash-stuffed envelope to Cunningham and saw invoices and sales records that cried out bribery," the Union-Tribune reports. "This employee confronted him with the evidence and demanded that he resign. Cunningham thought it over before deciding he would rather stay."

Cunningham ultimately resigned after pleading guilty to bribery charges, and now it's a federal judge who's doing the thinking. Cunningham is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3, and prosecutors are asking that the 64-year-old defendant get the maximum -- 10 years in federal prison.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room