Military Officers Caught Up in Contract Graft Investigations

This just makes me sad.

CASTOR, La. — On the fourth Sunday in July, John Lee Cockerham was here in his hometown for the baptism of his twin sons…

…Less than 24 hours later Major Cockerham was behind bars, accused of orchestrating the largest single bribery scheme against the military since the start of the Iraq war. According to the authorities, the 41-year-old officer, with his wife and a sister, used an elaborate network of offshore bank accounts and safe deposit boxes to hide nearly $10 million in bribes from companies seeking military contracts.The accusations against Major Cockerham are tied to a crisis of corruption inside the behemoth bureaucracy that sustains America’s troops. Pentagon officials are investigating some $6 billion in military contracts, most covering supplies as varied as bottled water, tents and latrines for troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The inquiries have resulted in charges against at least 29 civilians and soldiers, more than 75 other criminal investigations and the suicides of at least two officers. They have prompted the Pentagon, the largest purchasing agency in the world, to overhaul its war-zone procurement system… (read the rest here)

Gee, I wonder where these military personnel got the idea that it was okay to take bribes from military contractors.  A few names come to mind: former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), Brent Wilkes, Mitchell Wade, former head of House Appropriations Committee Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), former #3 at the CIA Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, and former Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).

According to prosecutors, Wilkes and Wade generously remunerated Duke Cunningham for steering government business their way. Wilkes, prosecutors allege, gave Cunningham more than $600,000 in bribes, including two checks totaling $100,000 and $525,000 to pay off a mortgage. (Wilkes, through his attorney, denies these allegations.) In February [2006], Wade pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham with over $1 million—but he operated with more panache, indulging Cunningham’s taste for outsize antiques. The trove he offered included Persian and Indian rugs, sleek Louis-Philippe and Restoration commodes, a $24,000 Victorian china hutch, leaded-glass cabinets, and silver candlesticks worth $5,600. “Duke liked his antiques big and he liked them expensive,” explains a Maryland antiques dealer, who despaired of his taste. (Duke got other gifts as well: a secondhand Rolls-Royce and the use of Wade’s 42-foot boat, renamed the Duke-Stir.)…

… In March, Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison—the harshest sentence ever received by an ex-congressman for corruption. But the investigations are far from over, and allegations continue to surface implicating other legislators and government officials. California Republican congressman Jerry Lewis, head of the House committee on appropriations, is currently being investigated. So is Wilkes’s best friend from high-school days, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who was until recently No. 3 at the C.I.A., and who is alleged to have accepted lavish favors from Wilkes—a trip to a Honolulu estate, for instance, renting for $50,000 per week—in exchange for arranging lucrative C.I.A. contracts for his friend. (Wilkes, Lewis, and Foggo have denied any wrongdoing.) Republican congresswoman and senatorial candidate Katherine Harris, of Florida, a source familiar with her activities tells me, is also being scrutinized for her dealings with Wade—in particular, for receiving $32,000 in illegal campaign donations, and for a lavish dinner she enjoyed last year for which he paid more than $3,300. (Harris says that she did not know the donations were illegal and has since given the money to charity.) In addition, Wade, who is cooperating with the authorities, has told the F.B.I. that Wilkes kept hospitality suites in the Watergate Hotel and Westin Grand in order to entertain legislators and government officials with evenings of poker, cigars, and, on occasion, for Cunningham, prostitutes.

It’s good to see the word “former” preceding most of the names on my list.  It’s dreadful to know that some people in the military decided that what was good for government officials worked for them too.

5 Responses to “Military Officers Caught Up in Contract Graft Investigations”

  1. Del says:

    After reading about the guys playing football with the bricks of $100 bills, I’m surprised everybody over there hasn’t been helping themselves. I would think life became more surreal with each passing day.

    It is sad.

  2. mooncat says:

    “Do as I say, not as I do” never works. How many more have learned corruption by example from this pack of thieves?

  3. Jennifer says:

    So I shouldn’t have accepted his invitation to the Caymans??? Dammit Kathy, you have to give me more warning!!

  4. Kathy says:

    Jennifer, I think it’s a good rule of thumb never to accept invitations from strange men. Or Republicans. :)

  5. Jennifer says:

    or strange republicans…and never from squirrels!!

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