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We thought you’d be interested in seeing a copy of “Washington Babylon,” Judy Bachrach’s article about Duke Cunningham and the most sordid scandal yet to hit the capital. The article appears in the August issue of Vanity Fair, which hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles today and nationally July 11. Please go to http://www.vanityfair.com/features/general/articles/060705fege01 to read the entire article.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JULY 5, 2006
DUKE CUNNINGHAM TRIED TO STASH BRIBES UP UNTIL DAYS BEFORE ARREST
New York, N.Y. – A Maryland antiques dealer who did business with convicted congressman Randall “Duke” Cunningham tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Judy Bachrach that Cunningham called her mere days before pleading guilty and tried to convince her to put a Victorian armoire in storage-“anywhere, he didn’t care where,” he told her-as long as it was far from the government’s prying eyes. “Very immature thinking the rules of the game didn’t apply to him,” the dealer tells Bachrach. During the call a store employee put Cunningham on speakerphone. “What’s going on? Am I being taped?” the congressman demanded to know. “Has anyone ‘visited’ the antique store recently?”
The dealer also tells Bachrach that in a separate conversation Cunningham begged her to recall that he had quietly slipped $35,000 in cash to his associate Mitchell Wade, principal of MZM, as compensation for lavish purchases made from the store. “I never saw it, and believe me, $35,000 in cash I would remember!” she says.
Defense psychiatrist Saul Faerstein, who interviewed Cunningham, tells Bachrach that Cunningham wasn’t straight with him. When Bachrach asks if he knew about Cunningham’s “bribe menu,” detailing how many hundreds of thousands he should be paid for defense contracts, Faerstein replies: “That was certainly quite damning…. But I never heard about that until later. I asked Cunningham’s lawyer, ‘Why didn’t you provide me with that information?’ They told me they gave me what I needed…. I am not very happy I didn’t know all the facts.” (Cunningham attorney K. Lee Blalack II says, “We made available to Dr. Faerstein all of the evidence that was in our possession.”)
Bachrach talks with California defense contractor Tom Casey, of Audre, Inc., who worked with Wade’s mentor, contractor Brent Wilkes. And she writes about Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, Wilkes’s boyhood friend who would become number three man at the C.I.A. Casey tells Bachrach that when he asked Wilkes how he got to be so friendly with Bill Lowery and other congressmen, the answer was always the same, “Honduras.” Wilkes would fly down to Central America to hang out with Foggo and various congressmen, and Casey tells Bachrach that Wilkes described sexuÃºal encounters between congressmen and women from Honduran villages. (Through his attorney Nancy Luque, Wilkes denies having ever traveled to Honduras with congressmen. Lowery’s lawyer, Lanny Breuer, says that when his client was a congressman he did indeed go “on a couple of trips with Wilkes to Central America.” However, he adds, Lowery “absolutely denies being involved with any women with Wilkes.” Foggo’s attorney says that Foggo never met congressmen in Honduras.)
Bachrach reports that Florida representative Katherine Harris shared a dinner that cost more than $3300 with Wade. A former MZM employee gave Bachrach the thank you note Harris sent to Wade following another dinner which read: “Mitch, what a special evening! The best dinner I have ever enjoyed in Washington…. Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance.”
Bachrach reports that Harris aide Mona Tate Yost was hired by MZM and a Harris spokesperson claimed that her contacts with her old congressional office were “purely on a social level,” however, an e-mail Bachrach saw, written in 2005, indicates Yost had promised to approach a top Harris staffer “with a meeting.” She was working on an MZM draft of a legislative-funding proposal that would, Wade hoped, underwrite his $10 million counter-intelligence facility. (Yost didn’t return phone calls for comment.) The money was never allocated and a Capitol Hill source tells Bachrach: “I think Mitch made a mistake in trying to bribe Harris. She’s so incompetent she can’t be bribed.”
Cynthia Wynkoop, a lawyer who worked at MZM from 2001 until 2004 on the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity tells Bachrach that business at the firm was “very secretive” and that her job could be described as “data mining.” One former employee likens MZM to the firm in John Grisham’s novel, saying, “Everything was compartmentalized, and if it wasn’t your business, you had no business knowing about it.”
Wynkoop also tells Bachrach that Wade’s behavior was troubling. “Of course, I was pressured to give money to certain candidates-everyone was,” Wynkoop says. “[North Carolina Republican senator] Elizabeth Dole and [Virginia Republican] representative Virgil Goode-they were highly recommended.” (Goode’s rural district is the site of an MZM facility.) “Wade would make remarks and let you know.” She says she ended up giving $1,000 to the company PAC and $500 to each candidate.
Bachrach reports that according to former employees, Wade became indiscreet. When one MZM employee asked Wade the whereabouts of his Rolls-Royce, Wade replied, “Duke’s driving it now-it’s parked in the congressional parking lot.” Wynkoop tells Bachrach that Wade told her he had bought the yacht, the Duke-Stir, which Cunningham was living on. “I was sitting with Mitch in the Capital Grille restaurant when he phones Duke at midnight! Who ever calls a congressman at midnight?” asks Wynkoop. “It was all very bizarre and very surreal.”
Bachrach also reports that MZM was hired to provide computer programming for the Executive Office of the President-a remarkable coup for Wade. Another bizarre circumstance occurred one month later when Wade paid exactly $140,000 for the Duke-Stir, which was moved to Cunningham’s boatslip. “I knew then that somebody was going to go to jail for that,” says a party to the sale. “Duke looked at the boat, and Wade bought it-all in one day. Then they got on the boat and floated away.”
The August issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on July 5 and nationally on July 11.