Finally, a Washington sex scandal

Investigators in the Duke Cunningham case are looking for evidence that defense contractors hired prostitutes for lawmakers.


Tim Grieve
April 27, 2006 4:42PM (UTC)

Republicans who haven't been able to get themselves too excited about the scandals rocking their party may finally be facing the kind of thing that gets their attention: sex.

As the Wall Street Journal is reporting, federal investigators are looking into evidence that two defense contractors implicated in the Duke Cunningham bribery case may have supplied prostitutes for the now-imprisoned Republican congressman. The Journal says the investigators are also trying to determine if the contractors provided other lawmakers or their staffs with the same "free services."

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Relying on the word of "people with knowledge of the investigation," the Journal says that Mitchell Wade -- who has already pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham and making illegal campaign contributions to Florida Rep. Katherine Harris -- has told investigators that Cunningham sometimes called him to ask for a prostitute, and that Wade obliged by arranging for one to visit him. "A limousine driver then picked up the prostitute as well as Mr. Cunningham, and drove them to one of the hotel suites, originally at the Watergate Hotel, and subsequently at the Westin Grand," the Journal says.

The Journal's sources say that Wade says that another defense contractor, Brent Wilkes, and two of Wilkes' employees actually made the arrangements for the trysts, finding a limo driver with connections to escort services and reserving the hotel rooms.

The Journal says that prosecutors haven't yet found evidence that other lawmakers were at the receiving end of this kind of largess, but such a find would be doubly damaging if they do. If lying about blow jobs is an impeachable offense, surely accepting free tricks from a defense contractor ought to be a cause for resignation. Moreover, as the Journal suggests, while it's hard to prove a quid pro quo in lobbying cases, it would be tough for a lawmaker who accepted sexual favors from defense contractors seeking political ones to argue that it was all just business as usual. Wouldn't it?


Tim Grieve

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

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