The Corruption Net Spreads

by TChris

In this post, TalkLeft wondered who else might be taken down with Randall "Duke" Cunningham. Mitchell Wade, former president of MZM Inc., a firm that does intelligence work for the military, admitted yesterday that he bribed Cunningham and unnamed Defense Department officials. His confession widened the scope of the corruption investigation.

The new admissions, including details that identify Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) as recipients of illegal campaign contributions, are contained in Wade's agreement to plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe.

Wade admitted that he illegally funneled more than $80,000 in contributions to Goode and Harris, hoping they'd earmark federal funds for MZM. Prosecutors say they have no evidence that Goode or Harris knew the contributions were illegal, but "wouldn't say whether Goode and Harris or the MZM employees who made the illegal donations for Wade are subjects of the investigation."

The congressman identifiable as Goode received $46,000 in such disguised contributions in 2003 and 2005, the court papers said. That was part of about $90,000 Wade and his workers contributed to Goode. Wade then asked the member to request appropriations for an MZM facility in his district, the Wade papers said, and a Goode staff member confirmed to Wade that the bill would include $9 million in funding. ...

The member identifiable as Harris received $32,000 in illegal donations from Wade and his employees in 2004. Documents filed with Wade's plea say that he took Harris to dinner early last year, where they discussed the possibility of another fundraiser and the possibility of getting funding for a Navy counterintelligence program in the member's district. One source familiar with the inquiry said Harris made such a request for funding, but it was not granted.

Harris spokeswoman Kara Borie said yesterday that the congresswoman acknowledges being "Representative B" in the court papers. Harris said in a statement that Wade had "discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district." She said Harris had donated all her MZM donations to charity. "This case demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to determine the intent of a contributor."

A candidate might well feel imperiled if voters suspect that the candidate's receipt of campaign contributions influenced the candidate's support of the contributor's projects. If voters apply a smell test, it's bye bye Harris and bye bye Goode.

Wade also provided details about corruption in the Defense Department. MZM hired the son of a Defense Department procurement official, then hired the official. "In return, Defense officials gave Wade's company inside budget information and favorable performance reviews, court documents said."

The description of the official-turned-MZM-employee in the court papers matches Robert Fromm, who worked at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville as program manager for a computer project known as FIRES and subsequently went to work for MZM. MZM hired the official's son, the court papers said, and months later, MZM was hired to work on the computer project. Fromm could not be reached for comment.

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