Contractor cops plea for bribing Cunningham

    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.”