Highlights of This Page
Bush gives management contract to US ports to Dubai firm, endangering American security and putting country at risk for further terrorist attacks. Wade pleads guilty in Cunningham scandal, agrees to provide evidence against fellow Republicans.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
- February 2: The press learns that Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor in the Lewis Libby perjury trial, has written to Libby's attorneys questioning them about possibly destroyed evidence. Fitzgerald says that many e-mails from Bush's and Cheney's offices have not been properly archived, nor have they been turned over to the prosecution, as mandated by his subpoenas. "...[W]e advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the archiving process on the White House computer system." Months later, approximately 250 previously undisclosed e-mails will be turned over to Fitzgerald, but there is no way to know if other, potentially damaging, e-mails were withheld. (MSNBC, James Moore and Wayne Slater)
- February 4: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) votes to report Iran to the UN Security Council for not fully cooperating with its inspectors, who have attempted to examine Iran's nuclear energy plants. The report could lead to UN sanctions. In response, Tehran says it will no longer allow the IAEA to conduct unannounced inspections and resume production of enriched uranium. Bush says the IAEA's decision sends a "clear message" that the world won't let Tehran have atomic weapons. Iran insists that its nuclear program is meant solely to generate electricity, and has said it has the right to enrich uranium. However, the United States and some European Union countries believe Iran wants to build atomic bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program -- a fear that was fueled by the discovery three years ago that Iran had run a covert nuclear program for 18 years. In its resolution, the IAEA says it worries that Iran's nuclear program may not be "exclusively for peaceful purposes." It is not confident of Iran's intentions because of its "history of concealment" of its nuclear activities and "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Javad Vaidi, head of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA meeting, says the "resolution is politically motivated and is not based on any legal or technical grounds." (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed." -- Senator Russ Feingold, responding to Bush's State of the Union Speech, February 7
- February 7: Writing for the Talking Points Memo blog, Democratic senator Russ Feingold says that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is unfit for his office for the simple, compelling reason that he "does not have the abiding respect for the rule of law" that the position requires. Feingold, who has voted to approve some of the most egregrious choices for office made by the White House because he believes that "a president should have wide latitude to appoint who he wants to advise him," voted against confirming Gonzales as Attorney General in 2005 because "[a]fter his testimony before the [Senate Judiciary] Committee, however, it was apparent that Judge Gonzales does not have the abiding respect for the rule of law that our country needs in its Attorney General. Too often, he seemed to view the law as an obstacle to navigate around rather than something he was required to uphold. And so I voted against his confirmation."
- After yesterday's appearance by Gonzales before the same committee, Feingold writes that Gonzales more than proved his unfitness for America's highest law enforcement position. Feingold writes, "At yesterday's hearing, I reminded the Attorney General about his testimony during his confirmation hearings in January 2005, when I asked him whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. We didn't know it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, when the Attorney General was White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, the Attorney General first tried to dismiss my question as 'hypothetical' before stating 'it's not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.' Yesterday, he tried to claim that he had told the truth at that hearing, bringing the parsing of words to new lows. I think it is clear that the Attorney General misled the Committee and the public not only about the NSA wiretapping program but about his views on presidential power. That broader issue was central to the debate over his nomination."
- Feingold concludes, "The Attorney General's lack of candor adds to the already mounting credibility problem that this administration faces. One of the things I tried to do in my second round of questions yesterday was to point out how incomplete and misleading the President's comments on the NSA program in the State of the Union address were. This administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms somehow has a pre-9/11 world view. In fact, the President has a pre-1776 world view. Our government has three branches, not one. And no one, not even the President, is above the law." (TPM Cafe)
- February 8: Air America talk show host Al Franken grills Time reporter John Dickerson over the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson by the White House to a number of reporters, including Dickerson. Dickerson, with his colleagues Matthew Duffy and Matt Cooper, wrote an October 2003 article that they knew to contain false allegations about Plame and her husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson. When the article was written and published, all three reporters knew for a fact that White House senior adviser Karl Rove had outed undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. They knew this because Cooper was one of the reporters to whom Rove leaked Plame's identity in July 2003; at the time, Cooper told Duffy and Dickerson about the leak. But the October 2003 article reported that Rove had "initially" been suspected to be the source of the leak, falsely suggesting that these suspicions were no longer valid. Worse, the article quoted White House press secretary Scott McClellan describing the accusations as "ridiculous" and saying, "There is simply no truth to that suggestion." Cooper, Duffy, and Dickerson all knew that McClellan's statement was false, yet their article presented it without rebuttal. In January 2004, Dickerson co-wrote another article that pretended that it was an open question whether anyone "in the White House" outed Plame despite the fact that Dickerson knew full well that someone "in the White House" had outed Plame; Dickerson also asserted that it was "likely that no charges will be filed."
- During the interview with Franken, Dickerson does not deny that he and his colleagues knowingly participated in the publication of misleading articles that contained statements they knew to be false. Nor does Dickerson offer a single relevant explanation or justification for the knowing publication, without rebuttal, of McClellan's false statement. Instead, Dickerson spins -- arguing that he, Cooper, and Duffy were unable to report that they knew that Rove had outed Plame, because of Cooper's confidentiality agreement with Rove. As media watchdog organization Media Matters observes, "But even if true, this is entirely irrelevant. Neither Media Matters -- nor anyone of whom we are aware -- has suggested that Time should have done anything to break that confidentiality agreement. Media Matters and others have simply suggested that Dickerson and his colleagues should not have published unchallenged statements they knew to be false and that they should not have misled Time's readers. During his Al Franken Show appearance, instead of answering Franken's question about the February 7 Media Matters item, Dickerson suggested that those who have criticized the Time articles do so because they "hate Karl Rove" -- precisely the sort of irrelevant misdirection that journalists scoff at when utilized by politicians." None of the reporters have yet addressed the questions of their own journalistic malfeasance.
- Washington Post reporter Dan Froomkin wrote on February 8, "Is there any excuse for a news organization to print a statement that they know is untrue, without at least trying to clue their readers into the truth? That seems to defeat the central purpose of journalism. So what should Time have done? One option might have been to go to Rove and say: We know McClellan isn't telling the truth. You either need to tell us the truth, on the record, or tell him the truth. What if Rove had refused? One option might have been to go to McClellan and tell him that they had reason to think his statement was not accurate. And if McClellan brushed them off? They should have stopped at nothing until they found a way to report what they knew to be the truth." Media Matters suggests another option: "Had Time reporters been unable to find a way to 'clue their readers in to the truth,' as Froomkin put it, they could have simply decided not to print the false statement." Media Matters concludes, "'In order for the system to stay whole,' Dickerson lectured, reporters have to keep their promises to sources. He offered no insight about what happens to the system when journalists knowingly deceive their readers." (Air America/MediaMatters [link to audio]
- February 8: Republican strategist Mary Matalin slanders African-American civil rights leaders: "I mean, you know, I think these civil rights leaders are nothing more than racists. And they're keeping constituency, they're keeping their neighborhoods and their African-American brothers enslaved, if you will, by continuing to let them think that they're -- or forced to think that they're victims, that the whole system is against them." (MediaMatters)
- February 9: House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, a Republican, tells an audience at the Merrick Jewish Center in Merrick, New York that "the situation [in Iraq] is more stable than you think." In Baghdad, he cites "bumper to bumper traffic," shopping centers, restaurants, video stores, vendors, and hotels, and tells the audience that being in Baghdad is "like being in Manhattan." The similarities escape the average observer: while New York City has suffered 441 murders so far this year, in Iraq approximately 14,458 Iraqis have died in the war this year. A study in the British medical journal Lancet, released in October 2006, suggests the real number may be much higher. ThinkProgress notes, "When they think the media aren't watching, politicians like King are willing to grossly distort the facts on Iraq to their constituents for political purposes." (Think Progress [link to video])
- February 9: William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, says, "Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face." (MediaMatters)
- February 11: During a hunting trip on a quail preserve in South Texas, Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend, wealthy GOP contributor Harry Whittington, in the face and upper chest with a shotgun. The 78-year old Whittington is rushed to the hospital, where doctors remove dozens of birdshot pellets from his body, including at least one that has moved perilously close to his heart. The media lockout is quick; local reporters don't even find out about it until over 24 hours have passed, and by that time, everyone involved has had a chance to get their stories straight. Though Whittington has suffered a heart attack and has to have emergency, invasive surgery, the story is given to the media as almost something funny, and Whittington is painted as almost a comic victim whose life was never seriously threatened. Even Whittington's daughter tells the Dallas Morning News that her father was not seriously injured. His face "looks like it has chicken pox, kind of. He's so lucky, it's a miracle," she gushes.
- Even many White House officials are initially kept out of the loop. Instead of informing Bush about the near-tragedy, Cheney consults with his family, his chief of staff, and longtime colleagues David Addington and Mary Matalin. In the first 48 hours after the shooting, after the White House press corps finally find out about the shooting and pepper an uninformed and perplexed Bush and the White House press secretaries with questions, Cheney and his staff say nothing at all. (Bush's top press secretary, Scott McClellan, is reduced to making feeble jokes about his orange tie making him a target for Cheney's hasty trigger finger, unaware that Whittington suffered a potentially life-threatening heart attack because of the shooting.) It is only after Karl Rove makes a personal appeal to Cheney that Cheney deigns to make a short public statement, on the Bush-friendly Fox News, five days after the shooting. Whittington himself joins in the spin, publicly apologizing to Cheney for having gotten in his line of fire, even though Whittington was behind Cheney when Cheney, whose media description as an "avid hunter" doesn't do justice to his lust to shoot defenseless, wing-clipped quail and other "prepared" animals on fenced-in preserves, turned and blazed away.
- The Armstrong Ranch, the site of Cheney's errant fire, is a popular retreat for Republican big-money donors and party luminaries to while away the hours shooting "wild game." The owner of the ranch, Anne Armstrong, is a powerful Republican in her own right, having served as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party in the 1960s and co-chairman of the Republican National Committee in the early 1970s before joining the Nixon and Ford White Houses as counsel to the president. Ford later appointed her to be US ambassador to Britain. She approved covert actions on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Ronald Reagan. More recently, she sat on Halliburtonís board at the time the oil services corporation hired Cheney as chief executive in 1995.
- The Armstrong Ranch, like some of Cheney's other favorite hunting preserves, raises quail and other birds in pens, and clips their wings to prevent them from actually achieving flight. Ranch hands prepare for the "hunt" by taking pens of frightened, confused birds to designated spots, and calling the hunters by cell phone to advise them to drive to such a spot. When the hunters arrive and pile out of their SUVs with guns at the ready, the ranch hands release the birds from their pens and shoo them into scattering, where they leap, flop, and attempt without success to fly away while Cheney and his fellow hunters blast them into bloody heaps of feathers. It is no more "hunting" than if Cheney were to take his shotgun into an elementary school and begin gunning down children trapped in their classrooms. (CNN, WSWS, Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein)
- February 13: Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hackett drops out of the Democratic primary race, conceding the ticket to opponent Sherrod Brown. (Brown will go on to win a decisive victory against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine in November.) Hackett, a grassroots candidate, is the first Iraqi war veteran to run for public office, having narrowly lost an October 2005 special election for the US House to Republican Jean Schmidt. Hackett won the fervent support of grassroots and netroots activists by, among other things, refusing to toe the usual Democratic line of being polite to their critics, calling Bush a "son of a b*tch" and firing back at Rush Limbaugh, who attacked Hackett's war record by calling him a "staff puke who goes to Iraq to pad the resume" (Hackett, a Gulf War veteran, rejoined the Marines in February 2004, walking away from a lucrative private legal practice to provide legal representation to US soldiers in Iraq; far from allowing himself to be squirreled away in the Green Zone, Hackett traveled extensively in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," and survived a number of firefights). Hackett retaliated against Limbaugh by calling him a "draft dodger and a drug addict" on Bill Maher's HBO talk show. After losing to Schmidt by less than four percentage points in what was considered a solidly Republican district, Hackett decided to challenge the conventional Democratic wisdom by running against Brown and mounting an unapologetic campaign featuring his military service, his support for gun rights, and his Christian faith.
- Hackett notes that many of his neighbors, in the affluent Indian Hill suburb of Cincinnati, fervently supported the Iraq war but made sure that they and their children would not fight. He says that in Indian Hill, "which may have been the nation's highest per-capita donor to the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, many people thought invading Iraq was a good idea. But nobody was willing to go fight there. Yet they were the ones driving around with 'Bush-Cheney' and 'Proud to Be an American' bumper stickers. Many had all these nationalistic attitudes, yet none of them were going to fight. And none of their kids were going to fight. ...I was at the top of the economic ladder. Certainly there are folks who are far wealthier than me, but I'm in about the 99th percentile. Guys like me have an obligation for service to one's country. When you look back at the greatest generation in World War II, what I did [in rejoining the military and going to war] was common back then. People think it is such a big deal now. Yet looking at Bush's war cabinet, they were almost all draft dodgers. Sons of b*tches, all of 'em. Not only does that piss me off, but it is in part why this administration has done such a poor job of managing the war in Iraq. Even making the decision to go to Iraq. They have an academic understanding of the military. But they have contempt for the military leadership." Hackett quotes retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, who said "something along the lines of, 'If you take a look around, the only people excited about invading Iraq are people who have never worn the uniform.'"
- Hackett ran as an economic populist, and recalls asking one voter who she would vote for in the 2000 presidential elections. The voter, a bank teller, said, "Oh gosh, I'm gonna vote for George Bush. I think he is great. He's gonna cut my taxes." Hackett replied, "Sweetheart, he's not gonna cut your taxes. He's gonna cut my taxes. He's not gonna do anything for you. Don't you understand? He's for guys like me, and guys like me shouldn't be asking for that kind of handout from the government." Hackett says that, on the subject of taxes, "Whether you are an individual or corporation, you serve your community. You serve your country. Part of that is giving back. It is not just paying your taxes. Paying taxes is simply a price of admission. There are times when taxes can be cut, and there are times when taxes need to be increased. That is an adult conversation. It's not, 'I'm gonna cut your taxes.' That's bullsh*t! It is! Do you ever believe a politician who says he's gonna lower your taxes? Look, if your taxes are lowered on the federal level, taxes are either gonna increase on the state and local level or you won't have the services that one expects from government. We don't have proper ambulance services. We don't have quality water. We don't have a quality electrical grid. And we start to look like a Third World country. We are getting there."
- Hackett also came out strongly against the management of the Iraq war, with the message, "Fight the war in Iraq to win or get the hell out." He says, "Bush's rationale that sacrificing more young Americans somehow validates the loss of other young Americans is bullsh*t! And when he talks about staying the course, I call on the president to tell us what the course is. What is the mission in Iraq? What is it? But because of poor Democratic leadership, they are not calling him on it. ...The Bush administration has no desire to fight this war to win. Assuming it can be won. My bottom line is this: 'The war is over. It is time to come home. Enough lives have already been lost.' The Pentagon needs to develop a plan to get us home as expeditiously and safely as possible. ...White House, for once, rely upon the war-fighting professionals in the Pentagon to tell you what can and can't be done realistically with the military over there. Iraq is now a terrorist haven. Whether we leave Iraq this year, next year, five years, or ten years, it's still going to spiral into further chaos. It's more chaotic and dangerous today than it was in 2003."
- Hackett won a five-way primary for the House seat in June 2005, and won national notoriety when CNN reported on his calling Bush a "son of a b*tch." "The whole quote is not remembered," he later recalls. "It's a quote I'm proud of. It was, 'I don't like that son of a b*tch. But I was willing to put my life on the line for him. And that's as good as it gets.'" The next day, Hackett recalls, the White House came out publicly to back Schmidt, and a spokesman said, "We are going to bury [Hackett]." Hackett's eight-year old daughter was frightened by the quote, believing that the president, in Hackett's words, "was gonna send people to kill my daddy after I fought for him in Iraq." Of Limbaugh, Hackett is contemptuous. "When a guy like Limbaugh, who dodged the draft during his generation's war with some bullsh*t excuse that he had a sore *ss, guys in the military think that's disgusting." Hackett says the Democratic Party needs to stand up, individually and collectively, to the bullying and accusations routinely leveled at its members by Republicans and their mouthpieces like Limbaugh. "They are used to taking swings at Democrats who then become defensive," he says. "I'm a proud Democrat. And one of the things that irks me about the leadership in my party is that they are seemingly apologetic about what we stand for. That pisses me off. I think the Democratic Party represents what is best about this country. We are about fighting for the little guy and working Americans. We are about equality and fairness, and God damn it, I'm proud of that." About the current Republican Party leadership, Hackett said famously that it consists of religious extremists "who aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden."
- But the Democratic leadership, worried about Hackett's salty language and inconvenient positions on such issues as gun control, lined up behind Sherrod Brown in the primary contest. Instead of fracturing the party by continuing his primary challenge, Hackett withdraws, and now says he is through with politics. (Paul Hackett/Bill Kavotsky)
- February 18: Headline during a Fox News broadcast discussing the US economy: "Attacking Capitalism: Have Dems Declared War on America?" (MediaMatters)
Bush gives management contract to US ports to Dubai firm, endangering American security and putting country at risk for further terrorist attacks
- February 22: The country erupts in outrage over the news that the Bush administration has signed off on a deal to have a company from the Arab emirate of Dubai manage several major US ports. The UAE, of which Dubai is a part, was home to two of the 9/11 hijackers, is a prime source of terrorist funding, and has provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden. Congress rushes to kill the deal, but Bush refuses to back off even after Republicans and Democrats alike protest; instead, Bush offers Congress 45 days to "allow members of Congress to examine the deal." The deal goes through, in a modified fashion, despite Bush's protests that allowing a Dubai firm to manage the security of American ports and the machinations of Karl Rove to try to sell Congress and the American people on the deal.
- Authors James Moore and Wayne Slater write, "For nearly five years, Bush and [Rove] had warned Congress and the nation against the rising threat of terrorism coming from the Arab and Muslim world. Having been whipped into an ethnocentric, anti-Muslim frenzy after 9/11, Americans were in no mood for anything that looked like a compromise to their safety. With their erstwhile allies on talk radio and in Congress against them, it was clear the White House would lose. But why? Was it ineptitude or hubris born of belief in their invincibility? Theirs was a Republican-conservative machine designed to dominate politics for a generation, to campaign, win votes, raise money, frame issues, and knock down opposition. But the Dubai ports deal revealed that Rove's efficient creation might have birthed a few monsters. Bush and Rove had grown perhaps so confident in the power to win that they seemed they didn't need approval of either the public or Congress. If you can convince a nation to go to war with inaccurate or cooked intelligence, aren't all other political endeavors easier by comparison?" (James Moore and Wayne Slater)
"People don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America." -- George W. Bush, on the deal to hand over US port security to a company operated by the United Arab Emirates, February 23, 2006
- February 23: Headline during a Fox News broadcast discussing Iraq: "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?" (MediaMatters)
Wade pleads guilty in Cunningham scandal, agrees to provide evidence against fellow Republicans
- February 24: Washington defense contractor Mitchell Wade pleads guilty to charges that he illegally influenced Defense Department contracting officials and bribed at least three Republican House members, including the already-convicted Randy Cunningham. Wade lavished over $1 million in bribes on Cunningham alone; he also gave hefty, and illegal, campaign contributions to Republican representativess Virgil Goode and Katherine Harris. Wade pleads guilty to four criminal charges in total, including one conspiracy charge for his providing benefits to an as-yet unnamed Pentagon official and other Pentagon employees in return for the Pentagon steering contracts to Wade's firm, MZM Inc. Though he could receive over 11 years in jail, he will not yet be sent to prison, because he has already agreed to turn state's evidence against the other Republicans, lobbyists, and defense contractors involved in this enormous network of bribery and corruption.
- US Attorney Kenneth Wainstein tells reporters after the plea that while the growth of MZM appeared to be "an American success story," it was actually built "by spreading corruption within the congressional appropriations process, the defense contracting apparatus and the financing of congressional campaigns." Wade bribed both Republican House members such as Cunningham, but also gave bribes and other illegal incentives to Pentagon officials who themselves were making the procurement decisions that affected MZM. This included MZM's hiring the son of one official who oversaw the company's work and then hiring the official, too. In return, Defense officials gave Wade's company inside budget information and favorable performance reviews.
- Wade also pleads guilty to election law fraud for contributing $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Goode and Harris; prosecutors note that they cannot be sure that either representative was aware that the contributions were illegal, and refuse to say whether either one is under investigation as yet. Goode and Harris have received other large contributions from Wade and MZM as well. Wade hoped that in return, Goode and Harris would "earmark" federal money for MZM. Goode was receptive to Wade's bribe, agreeing to add $9 million in funding for MZM. So was Harris, who, after receiving illegal contributions and meeting Wade for dinner, requested funding for a a Navy counterintelligence program in Harris's district, a program that would benefit MZM. (The request was not granted.) Harris says in a statement that she and Wade had "discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district." Harris's campaign claims that she donated all the MZM contributions to charity. Wade also tried to bribe two other Republican lawmakers, senators Trent Lott and Elizabeth Dole, but his opening proffers were politely rejected.
- In his agreement with prosecutors, Wade agreed to plea to what prosecutors term "multiple felony counts related to his wholesale corruption of the defense procurement process. The conduct includes Wade making over $1 million in payoffs to then- Congressman Duke Cunningham, providing illegal benefits to Defense Department officials, and attempting to curry favor with two other members of Congress by making illegal campaign contributions." Since 2002, MZM has received over $150 million in Pentagon contracts "by engaging in a series of corrupt acts throughout the defense procurement process: from ensuring that the members of Congress who could appropriate funds for special Defense Department projects looked favorably on MZM, to the Department of Defense officials -- some of whom Wade knew when he was a government official -- who could give him favorable reviews and inside information to ensure that the work would continue to flow." Wade exploted the system by bribing a sitting congressman, by conspiring to trade favors to Pentagon employees in return for contracts with the Defense Department, and by funneling illegal campaign contributions to two other congressmen. The prosecution observes, "In engaging in this corrupt activity, Wade deprived the citizens of the United States of their right to the honest services of government -- the right of the Defense Department to make decisions free from bias and favoritism."
- According to the prosecution, Wade made illegal campaign contributions to Goode and Harris because he believed (correctly) that not only did they have the ability to request appropriations funding that would benefit MZM, they would be willing to do so. Since federal law prohibits campaigns from receiving more than $2,000 from any one individual, and prohibits corporate contributions entirely, Wade decided to funnel the huge sums to Goode and Harris by having his employees and their spouses make bogus contributions to the two campaigns under their own names, and then reimburse the employees. These are called "straw contributions," are are felonies under federal law. The prosecutors write, "He did so often by simply handing the employees cash -- two thousand dollars for each person -- and then immediately 'asking' them to make a contribution. All in all, he made 39 different 'straw' contributions, with 19 different employees or spouses. In order to maximize the impact of these contributions, Wade personally handed a number of the campaign contributions, in the form of personal checks from employees and their spouses, to one of the representatives."
- A full documentation of the charges and evidence against Wade can be found here.
- An extensive US News and World Report details the extensive network of contributions, fraud, and corruption inhabited by Wade and his cronies since at least 2002, which the FBI calls a "huge spider web." During that fall, when Wade enthusiastically told a senior executive at MZM, Haig Melkessetian, that he would use Cunningham's influence to improperly bring in contracts for MZM, Melkessetian demurred, telling Wade, "I can't be on both sides of the fence." (Melkessetian saw the deals with Cunningham as a conflict of interest for both himself and MZM.) Wade retorted, "Don't start that ideological crap with me. I'm not here for ideology. I'm here to make money." Melkessetian is now a consultant for a US intelligence agency, and is helping prosecutors compile evidence against Wade, Cunningham, and MZM. Melkessetian says that while he and other MZM employees weren't aware of the specifics of Wade's felonious acts, they all suspected that Wade was "up to no good."
- Already the investigation has led to two other powerful Republican figures: Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, a former top-level CIA official, and Brent Wilkes, a wealthy defense contractor and a close friend of Foggo. Foggo resigned in May 2006 after the allegations against him and Wilkes began to surface (they will both be indicted in February 2007). Wilkes is believed to have given over $630,000 in bribes, gifts, and favors to Cunningham, and investigators now are trying to determine whether he obtained federal contracts through Foggo, a high school buddy of Cunningham's. Investigators are also probing whether Wilkes provided limo services, hotel suites, and prostitutes to Cunningham.
- According to the US News and World Report investigation, not only was Wade involved in a "spider web" of corruption much more extensive and far-reaching than initial investigations revealed, but the investigation reveals what US News calls "fundamental flaws in the government's national-security contracting procedures and showed how Wade risked compromising sensitive government secrets." The details are summed up in the US News report, which is available at the link at the end of this item.
- The Republican leadership in Congress is reluctantly pursuing its own investigation of Cunningham and MZM. The chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Republican Peter Hoekstra, has also asked an independent investigator, Michael Stern, to conduct a separate inquiry into Cunningham's activities while Cunningham served on the intelligence committee. Stern has already found that Cunningham corrupted the awarding of intelligence contracts, much the same way he did military contracts. The leaders of the intelligence committee are now debating whether to subpoena Cunningham to testify. His attorney has said Cunningham would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were subpoenaed.
- One burning question: how did the government allow MZM (and presumably other defense contractors) to operate with so little oversight? The former head of the Justice Department's counterespionage section, John Martin, says, "The CIA and DOD [the Department of Defense] are equally responsible for what has gone wrong at MZM as MZM itself." One Pentagon agency under heavy scrutiny, Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), has just had an independent accounting firm audit MZM's contracts at the behest of deputy undersecretary for defense Stephen Cambone -- after Cambone blocked a previous CIFA in-house review. CIFA director Dave Burtt and Burtt's deputy Joseph Hefferon both resigned without explanation in August, but have denied any knowledge of improper contracts with MZM.
- Federal prosecutors call the business dealings by Wade and Cunningham little more than "naked avarice." The latter, they say, is "starkly framed" in one of Cunningham's office notecards. Under the congressional seal on his letterhead, Cunningham jotted down a "bribe menu," from which Wade "ordered"defense contracts. Just a few examples: the notation "16 BT 140" meant that a $16 million contract from Cunningham would cost Wade a boat called Buoy Toy, valued at $140,000; "17 50" meant that a $17 million contract required a $50,000 bribe from Wade. After the first $340,000 in bribes, Cunningham generously offered a discount -- just $25,000 for each additional $1 million in bogus earmarks. "For the better part of a decade," prosecutors say, "Cunningham, in effect, erected a 'For Sale' sign upon our nation's capital." As for Wade, he showed a blatant disregard for almost every rule of law and moral imperative involved in the defense-contracting business. He contributed frequently to Cunningham's political action committees, often just before key votes. He gave him an envelope stuffed with $6,500 in cash, and gifts that "ran the gamut" from the "routine" to the "peculiar," the "audacious," the "self-indulgent," and the "truly astonishing" -- including lavish meals, fancy hotel rooms, a Rolls-Royce, a yacht, rare antiques, oriental rugs, and a down payment on a luxury home. "They say money and power can be seductive -- well, there was a little mating dance between Wade and Cunningham," says former MZM executive vice president, Richard Peze. "And it got absolutely out of control and resulted in the worst possible outcome for both these individuals."
- Wade began his corrupt relationship with Cunningham back in 2000, after Pentagon investigators found that Cunningham had pressured Pentagon officials into giving a contract to Wilkes's firm, ADCS -- a contract which allowed Wilkes to scam $750,000 in fraudulent billing from the Defense Department. Wilkes soon hired Wade, whose company MZM was at the time much smaller, to operate as his public face in order to get more contracts. The criminal relationship was quite apparent to both Wade and Cunningham; when Wade took Cunningham on a $12,000 shopping spree, Cunningham "expressed his appreciation" for Wade's "willingness to bribe him" and promised that he would make Wade a "somebody." Indeed he did: under Cunningham's aegis, MZM's contracts soared from "less than a million dollars per year, to tens of millions per year." And Wade didn't stint himself. His elegant "World Headquarters" for MZM was located in a historic, tony Victorian brownstone in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood; a Steinway baby grand piano was in the entry foyer, and Wade's own offices were layered with antique Persian rugs, hand-carved antique furniture, and expensive oil paintings. Cunningham personally profited as well from Wade's taxpayer-funded largesse, with expensive furniture, antiques, and even a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. In return, Cunningham steered millions of contracting dollars to MZM, even overriding other lawmakers in deciding which military programs should be funded and "pressur[ing and] bull[ying]" Pentagon officials into selecting Wade and Wilkes for contracts. The contractors not only specified their coveted programs to Cunningham but even "wrote his actual requests for him" that amounted to "scripts," the prosecutors say. "In short, Cunningham acted exactly the way one would expect of a congressman who had been bought for more than $2.4 million."
- Wade's quid pro quos were brazen. In July, MZM got a $140,000 contract to provide computer programming for the Executive Office of the President. The next month, Wade paid $140,000 for the Buoy Toy, which Cunningham renamed the Duke-Stir. ("I bought the boat," he said later, "not the lifestyle.") Wade parked the 42-foot yacht in Cunningham's boat slip for the lawmaker's use. "Cunningham grew to expect luxury," prosecutors say. "His coconspirators eagerly plied him with it." A month after he bought the yacht, Wade was awarded a five-year special contracting vehicle called a Blanket Purchase Agreement that allowed MZM to receive up to $225 million in contracts from Pentagon agencies without competitive bidding. The BPA, says Wainstein, amounted to a "blank check drawn on taxpayer funds." Investigators are now trying to determine whether Wade won the BPA illegally. Wainstein says Wade's "belt and suspenders approach" was to then bribe contracting officials in the Defense Department to ensure that "MZM could milk that account without interruption."
- Wade worked hard to bring powerful Pentagon and military officials into MZM. His most important conduit to the military and intelligence establishment was a retired 33-year Army veteran and three-star general named James King, who joined MZM soon after the 9/11 attacks. King had led the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and served as the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. King had his own moral ambiguities: one of his favorite aphorisms was, "There are no lies; the truth keeps changing." A former executive says, "He was very close to Mitch. Given the concerns I had personally, it's hard to believe he didn't have similar misgivings about what Mitch was doing." According to knowledgeable sources, the Federal Election Commission is investigating a number of MZM-related campaign contributions, including $12,000 that King and his wife made to Goode. King was a prime source of CIFA contracts for MZM. Over the past four years, CIFA spent about $1 billion on counterterrorism and counterintelligence initiatives, the majority of which were outsourced to contractors, including Wade. "Everything he had," says a former MZM executive, referring to Pentagon contracts, "came from CIFA."
- Around this same time, Cunningham earmarked $6.3 million for projects "to benefit" CIFA in the fiscal 2003 legislation and told a fellow congressman not to make any decision that would hurt "his two top priorities," namely, Wade and Wilkes. When it looked as though Cunningham would get only a $5 million earmark, his staffers knew he would be furious. "I am under my desk ducking and cowering," one wrote. Another later said that Cunningham "stormed into his office, pissed, and said he might just as well become a Democrat. I thought that was the end of it until he came out and said he wants to take $1 million from some other big-ticket item and put it back on Mitch's. He wants it at six [million dollars]." The profit from the particular computer system deal was more than 850%, prosecutors say, adding that MZM first attempted to deliver an even cheaper system that would have given the company a profit of 1,700%. "Adding insult to injury," the prosecutors say, the final system was "never installed" because it was "incompatible" with CIFA's network system and "remains in storage."
- Publicly, Wade was a big-ticket Republican backer and public figure. He spent thousands of dollars building up his image as a patriot and philanthropist, sponsoring a breast cancer walk, establishing a fund to support the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, and, along with his wife, starting a nonprofit called the Sure Foundation, in the MZM building, to benefit children in war-torn nations. Cunningham's wife and daughter were on the Sure board. Investigators are now trying to learn whether Wade-unbeknownst to his wife and others-used the foundation to launder MZM profits.
- But as time went on, Wade and Cunningham's schemes began to worry some at the Pentagon. The two had larded CIFA with so many of their cronies that senior Pentagon officials were becoming uncomfortable. Massive conflicts of interest were rife. "Wade had his 'in' everywhere," says a senior MZM executive. "He ran it as a clandestine operation against a company you'd want to infiltrate." At an MZM Christmas party, Wade asked his facility security officer to sit at the CIFA table and report back on conversations she overheard.
- King, suffering some of the blame for MZM's increasingly bad image and disliked because of his arrogance and heavy-handed managerial style, began to try to distance himself from Wade. He was abruptly removed as program manager, and ended up as an MZM consultant to General Michael Hayden, then the head of the National Security Agency and now the head of the CIA. One former MZM executive says that King was honest and ethical, and believes that King was relieved to break away from Wade and the mounting problems at CIFA.
- Perhaps the biggest single purchase between Wade and Cunningham was when, in the late fall of 2003, Wade bought Cunningham's Southern California home for a tremendously inflated value of $1.6 million, allowing Cunningham to buy a palatial estate with the profits. Wade would later sell the house at a huge loss. But he made plenty of money off the deal. In mid-December, according to federal prosecutors, Wade told Pentagon officials that he had $16.1 million in "mandate money" for "data storage" that he wanted to spend on a second-floor conference center for CIFA. "Wade made it perfectly clear to the DOD officials that the money was his to spend, not theirs-and not on projects that they [DOD] determined were in the DOD's best interests," said prosecutors in Cunningham's pre-sentencing documents. On February 20, 2004, Wade prepared a letter on Cunningham's congressional letterhead, which the congressman signed, thanking Pentagon officials for supporting the "collaboration center" program. Cunningham gave Wade "numerous blank sheets" of his congressional stationery, prosecutors say, "in order to enable Wade to draft letters on his behalf." In March, a Pentagon official refused to release the first $12 million of the earmarks or give "blanket approval" to Wade's schemes "with very little accountability or oversight that I can see." But using Cunningham's clout, Wade "successfully pressured" the official's supervisors to release the money.
- Of course, Wilkes and Wade did not give the Pentagon its money's worth. Instead, they supplied substandard hardware for a scant $1.5 million, and pocketed the rest. "We complained about that to the contracting officer," Hefferon recalls, "and said they owed us approximately $4 million." Instead of paying, Wade sicced Cunningham on Burtt and Hefferon, infuriating the two. Hefferon called Cunningham's tirade "inappropriate." Inappropriate or not, Cunningham profited handsomely -- Wilkes and Wade paid off Cunningham's $1,000,000 mortgage, paid his $115,100 capital gains tax bill, and paid over $11,000 to move his furnishings (Cunningham signed the packing slip as an employee of MZM). And in return, that year MZM obtained $65 million in Pentagon business. "It was bizarre," says a federal law enforcement official. "They had wildly diverse contracts; there was no capability for some of the stuff they got; there was no coherence to who they were. It was the tail wagging the dog."
- But the party was coming to an end. Between Cunningham's rapacious demands, and a crude and completely inadequate accounting system handled solely by Wade, Wade was slowly going broke. At the end of each month at MZM, it was pure chaos. "There would be bills spread all about, he would be screaming and yelling about how much money we were spending, but he was the only one spending all the money," says a former senior executive. "He wanted so much to live the rich man's life, and he couldn't stop himself." The end of 2004 saw morale at MZM at an all-time low. But, employees were afraid to leave the firm for fear that Wade would retaliate -- he had already dirtied several former employee's security clearances. In spring 2004, Wade asked Melkessetian to return to Iraq as the CIFA liaison. Melkessetian said no, for health reasons, and says he was asked to leave the company. For two years, says Melkessetian, prospective employers told him that they were unable to locate his security clearance. The day Wade pleaded guilty, Melkessetian says, his clearance popped up again. "The evidence clearly implies that Wade retaliated against employees," says Melkessetian's attorney, Mark Zaid, "by sabotaging their security clearances."
- On June 12, 2005, the Copley News Service and San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Wade had taken the $700,000 loss on the Cunningham house. Shortly thereafter, the FBI and IRS were investigating the case. Wade had a shredding party over one late June weekend at MZM. On July 1, federal investigators simultaneously raided MZM, Cunningham's ranch, and CIFA, seizing documents and computer hard drives. Soon after, Wade began cooperating with the FBI. King eventually took over the company, and presided over the selling off of "selected assets" to a venture capital firm, Veritas, which renamed the firm "Athena Innovative Solutions." Melkessetian says, "MZM has been reflagged, like the pirates in the Caribbean reflagged ships that they captured."
- At his plea hearing in February, Wade expressed remorse for his actions. "I feel deep sorrow for the harm I have caused my family, friends, and former colleagues," he said. One former MZM executive sees it differently. "He's not repentant at all," he says. "In his mind, it's, 'I got caught.'" (Washington Post, US News and World Report, TPM Cafe)