view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

ruh roh

OMG this is...well, not shocking at all:
Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted yesterday in federal court that he attempted to illegally influence Defense Department contracting officials and tried to curry favor with two House members, in addition to lavishing more than $1 million in cash, cars, a boat, antiques and other bribes on convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).
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. The congressman resigned after pleading guilty in November to taking $2.4 million in bribes from Wade and others in return for steering federal funds and contracts their way.
Wade also pleaded guilty to election law fraud for making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to "Representatives A and B," who are identifiable as Goode and Harris. He did so, the filings said, in hopes that they, like Cunningham, would "earmark" federal money for MZM. Wade gave the funds for the donations to 19 of his employees and their spouses, who then wrote $2,000 checks to the members, according to the documents.
Goode and Harris have been identified before as recipients of large donations from Wade and other MZM employees, and prosecutors said yesterday that there was no sign either knew the contributions were illegal. Prosecutors said the investigation is continuing 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.
Goode's office said it would issue a statement, but The Post had not received one by late yesterday.
Waldo provides some much needed context for just how much money Goode received from MZM:
Things aren’t looking much better for Rep. Virgil Goode, our local man in the scandal. It’s been alleged by top executives at MZM that employees were forced — under penalty of being fired — to donate to Goode, with Goode’s knowledge of this coercion [1, 2], with the resulting torrent of money (over $100,000 to Goode) being enough to cause MZM president Mitchell Wade to brag that he “owns” Virgil Goode . Now, that’s a pretty serious allegation, but it should be pretty easy to disprove, if it’s false.
For example, if the contributions from MZM employees were spread out over the course of months or years, that would certainly point away from an order coming down for everybody to simultaneously contribute. Or if MZM employees had a history of supporting Rep. Goode, that would also indicate that their interests just happened to align. Or MZM employees had given money to a good number of candidates, it would indicate a general political atmosphere out of which support for a candidate friendly to MZM would be likely. All of these factors would point to candidates giving of their own free will, and the charges that Goode knowingly accepted forced contributions could be ignored.
To recap: 35 MZM employees had never given any money to a federal candidate before. 37 MZM employees simultaneously contributed to Rep. Virgil Goode on two occasions, in March of 2003 and March of 2005. None of these MZM employees have given any money to any other candidate in the past two years, other than a few who gave money to MZM’s other darling, Katherine Harris. 10 of them also gave to MZM’s PAC.
And more here:
My Lord! MZM has been very generous to Rep. Goode. Why, even Rep. Cunningham only received $13,000 from MZM, a fraction of what Rep. Goode received. Why, MZM only gave out $143k in all of 2004, meaning that Rep. Goode received a stunning 33.8% of all of the donations given by the company’s employees in all of 2003-04! Clearly, Rep. Goode is MZM’s top man in Congress.
Did I mention that Virgil Goode is on the House Appropriations Committee?

What difference does that make, you ask? Only this, from USAToday:
A USA TODAY analysis of MZM-related campaign contributions shows how the company's growth and its political activities became intertwined at key moments. In more than 30 instances, donations from MZM's political action committee or company employees went to two members of the House Appropriations Committee — Cunningham and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. — in the days surrounding key votes or contract awards that helped MZM grow.
For example, MZM's political action committee gave Cunningham $5,000 in 2003 the day before his appointment to a congressional panel negotiating the final version of the defense budget. Ten days later, the day after the House passed the final Pentagon spending bill, Wade gave Cunningham $2,000.
Both lawmakers sit on the subcommittee overseeing the Pentagon's spending and have acknowledged putting language in bills that created or expanded contracts that went to MZM.
Larry Noble, an independent ethics expert with the Center for Responsive Politics, says the timing of the contributions creates the appearance that the company's political giving helped it get taxpayer-funded business from the Pentagon.
It is not illegal for defense industry political action committees or defense industry workers to make campaign donations, unless they are given with the intent of influencing Pentagon contract awards.
Political donations from military contractors are quite common, but timing those donations around contract decisions is not, said Noble, a former chief counsel for the Federal Election Commission.
So far Goode hasn't had very much to say about the whole affair at all. All I can find in my digging seems to be the standard pearl-clutching republicans love to breathlessly offer when they, you know, get caught being bribed:
"I was shocked and amazed to learn the details of the plea agreement concerning former MZM CEO Mitch Wade," Goode said in a statement. "I had no knowledge that any of the contributions by MZM persons to our campaign were illegal."
Oh heavens, color me exasperated. I just had no idea!

MZM (i.e. Wade), you'll remember, provided the Dukestir with his lavish house-yacht everyone knew about.

So naturally, Goode would never have questioned all that money coming his way.

This is going to be so good.


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