Contractor cops plea for bribing Congressman

Defense contractor Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty on Friday to bribing former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and illegally funneling money to two other lawmakers, a court official said.

According to charges against him, Wade gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to Cunningham, an eight-term congressman from California and decorated Vietnam War pilot.

Cunningham resigned in November after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for help in securing Defense Department contracts and faces up to 10 years in prison. His case is one of a number of scandals that have shaken senior Republicans in Congress.

In a statement provided by his attorneys, Wade said: "It is with great remorse that I acknowledge the actions noted in this plea agreement and I feel deep sorrow for the harm I have caused my family, friends and former colleagues."

He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, one count of election fraud, and one count of using interstate facilities to promote bribery, the court official said.

In violation of campaign-finance laws, Wade was found to have reimbursed employees at his company MZM Inc. who made campaign contributions to two other members of Congress.

Campaign-finance records show that those lawmakers were Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode and Florida Republican Rep. Katherine Harris. The charges indicate Wade did not inform either one that the contributions were unlawful.

A spokeswoman for Harris, who as Florida’s secretary of state played a key role in the 2000 disputed presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, said she had given the $52,000 she received from MZM employees to charity.

A spokesman for Goode was not immediately available for comment. According to the charges he received at least $46,000 in illegal contributions from MZM.

MZM operates several facilities in Goode’s south-central Virginia district, including one that conducts background checks on foreign-owned defense contractors.

A 2003 press release from Virginia’s governor at the time, Democrat Mark Warner, says Goode was "instrumental" in setting up the project.

Campaign finance expert Larry Noble said it was not unusual for lawmakers to want to bring jobs to their districts but added: "If you received money from MZM and those contracts went to MZM, given the Duke Cunningham situation obviously questions are going to be raised and Congressman Goode has to be prepared to answer questions about MZM."