Washington D.C./San Diego--All roads appear to be leading to both cities in a number of current scandals, and it appears that Illinois GOP Rep. Dennis Hastert is just another inept and corrupt fish caught in the nets of ongoing investigations, trials, and hearings. But if one reads the coverage today of Hastert's announcement that he won't be serving-out the rest of his term, one would think it has nothing to do with anything at all--just that it's time.
Indeed it is, because yesterday former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert was named in one of the hearings regarding the ever-widening net cast in the trial of Brent Wilkes, former proprietor of a San Diego-based defense contractor called "ADCS" that received incredible payouts in contracts thanks to the undue influence of then-Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
Like Hastert, Cunningham is also a failed athlete and human being. Yet, besides being a former High School teacher (the last to know how things really work in America), Hastert was also a wrestling coach at that time, so one can assume he's been wrong-headed most of his natural--if not public--life. If you've been reading about the Brent Wilkes/Randy Cunningham saga at all, you'll note that the mainstream media has done its best to keep any other GOP congresspersons out of the spotlight, and as much as possible.
They're doing so today. Virtually none of the stories by the major wire services are connecting the decision of Hastert not to serve out the rest of his term with the testimony yesterday of Wilkes' nephew (and second--or third depending on the news source--hireling of Wilkes' contractor company ADCS) Joel Combs.
Wilkes also paid to fly Cunningham and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert from a golf outing in Palm Springs to San Diego for a reception and then back to Washington on private jets, Combs testified. Combs told prosecutors he didn't recall Cunningham ever volunteering to cover his share of the expenses. He said on cross-examination that he would not have been responsible for processing any reimbursements and did not know whether company accountants ever billed the congressman or his campaigns. Cunningham occasionally paid for wine at dinner with Wilkes, Combs testified. (AP, 10.17.2007)And so, there it is: Wilkes appears to have allowed Hastert and Cunningham to come to San Diego on his dime, play some golf, and to fly back to Washington on separate, privately chartered jets. Yes, it's time alright. It's time for Dennis Hastert to secure legal representation if he doesn't have it already. He's in a lot of trouble, but at least the mainstream press is providing some cover for him and buying him some much needed time to regroup.
It begs-the-question: what other contractors in San Diego might be involved? Or are there just similar scandals waiting to be uncovered in the big defense contractor city? It's peculiar, a bunch of failed athletes who aren't particularly bright--one might be forgiven for thinking we were referring to the president, but like minds keep company. Considering Cunningham once served on the House Intelligence Committee, it might be a good idea to ask if SAIC (based in San Diego) had their fingers in the pie. You never know. The Wilkes trial is nearly over:
Brent Wilkes has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of bribery, money laundering, fraud and conspiracy. The government entered phone records and other documents Thursday before jurors returned to the courtroom. They called their final witnesses Wednesday, including women who testified they were paid to have sex with Cunningham and Wilkes at a Hawaiian resort. Federal prosecutors have rested their case in the trial of a defense contractor charged with bribing former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. (AP, 10.18.2007)Were they bribing Rep. Cunningham and others in Congress for contracts? It appears a strong possibility. Who else? Are others still doing so with other representatives? It deserves investigation. As this is being written, the prosecution has rested, and the defense has begun making its case. It's unclear whether a prima facie case(by all appearances unless rebutted) has been made at this point.
Hastert is also connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal and received over $100,000 in donations from the lobbyist's fundraising efforts on his behalf. It's appropriate at this point to consider that a March 2007 article on SAIC has fingered them on some serious ethical violations involving their work as a defense/intelligence contractor.
More recently, in June of this year, The San Diego Reader outlined some interesting connections between Brent Wilkes and another San Diego area based defense contractor, one Mitchell Wade. For months Wade has been confessing to government investigators the gist of it all: that Wilkes was running a system of bribes and rewards in-exchange for defense contracts in DC (and probably in the environs of San Diego when necessary), and maybe not just for himself. He has some strange accomplices.
Among those implicated is Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, an ex-San Diego cop, SDSU grad, and CIA agent. A boyhood friend of Wilkes, Foggo had been appointed to the CIA's third-highest post by Porter Goss, who recently was forced out of his job by the president. The latest San Diego link was first reported by the Washington Post on May 6: Jerome Foster, a downtown San Diego-based businessman. Foster was on the board of Shirlington Limousine, the company that furnished transportation for the alleged Cunningham assignations. Christopher Baker, Shirlington's owner, has a criminal history that reportedly includes felony charges for attempted robbery and car theft. (San Diego Reader, 06.08.2006)And as quoted before on this site, Foster did subcontracting work with SAIC, primarily to secure them contracts as an almost "dummy firm" to increase their ability to hold more contracts than they were qualified to under federal statutes. But hey, what's the law mean under the current administration? Not much. Hastert sees the writing on the wall. It's time.
Signs on San Diego today: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/politics/20071018-9999-1m18wilkes.html
AP today on the Wilkes trial: http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_7212206
The San Diego Reader, June 8, 2006: http://www.sdreader.com/php/cityshow.php?id=1404