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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More Illegal "Straw" Contributions in the Cunningham Scandal

As Lindsay Nair reports in the Roanoke Times, on last Thursday, federal authorities accused another MZM official of funneling illegal "straw" campaign contributions through MZM employees to Rep. Virgil Goode (VA). Earlier this year, when former MZM CEO Mitch Wade pleaded guilty to bribing former congressman Duke Cunningham, he also pleaded guilty to making straw contributions to both Goode and Rep. Katherine Harris (FL).

"Straw" contributions are contributions to political candidates or parties which have been funneled through an intermediate donor to disguise the true source of the funds, often so that the true source may make further contributions without running afoul of contribution limits.

The MZM official accused last week, Richard Berglund, is a former district manager for the company. The charging document accuses Berglund of being an illegal conduit of Mitch Wade's contributions to Goode and of illegally directing his own money to Goode through two different employees.

As to that charging document: the account in the Roanoke Times and the Richmond Times-Dispatch seem to conflict with that offered by the Washington Post as to its exact nature. The Times and Times-Dispatch are describing it as an indictment, while the Post describes it essentially as an "information" - a statement of facts about the illegal activities of someone cooperating with investigators.

If the latter report is accurate, Berglund may be implicating others involved in possible illegal campaign activity. With Mitch Wade pleading guilty earlier this year, it seems likely that Berglund's help would entail naming others involved in the scheme.

Regardless, last week's accusation against Mr. Berglund shows that federal prosecutors are still digging into possible campaign corruption by Duke Cunningham and the rest of the Gang That Couldn't Cheat Straight. Three men named as accomplices in the guilty pleas of Duke Cunningham and Mitch Wade have not yet been indicted, Brent Wilkes foremost among them. These men have contributed more than $1 million to various federal officials. And there is still a pretty stack of public officials who currently use the Members' elevator in the Capitol who have received tens of thousands of dollars from Wilkes, Wade, and their employees, some of whom doled out millions in federal contracts to the men.

Stay tuned.

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Comments:
From the mailbag:
Thanks for the information. It's sad that we can't trust anyone in our Gov't. Like I have always said, these guys are in it for themselves and not for the people or the state or country they represent. They should be ashamed of themselves and step away from any elections. They don't deserve to be there.

Thanks for listening.

Mike J
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