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Rethug sleaze surfaces yet again

You have to wonder how much worse the culture of corruption can get before people wake up and bounce all of these sleazy politicians out. I was over at Think Progress, and I saw that this lobbyist prostitution scandal story has taken off, with “as many as a half a dozen” members of Congress caught up in it.

I recall blogging about this back in December, when now-former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham was first tied to shady “co-conspirator No. 1,”lobbyist and military contractor Brent Wilkes in Pulitzer Prize winning coverage by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The 63-year-old Rethug Cunningham, you might recall, recently plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, tax evasion and wire fraud for receiving at least $2.4 million in bribes, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.

The level of greed was beyond the pale — he had a freaking bribe “price list” for his ability to steer business to defense contractors.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in March.

In December, the rumblings about Brent Wilkes providing “hospitality suites” for congressman began. From my Dec. 6 post:

The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a lengthy piece that dug into all the connections, but The Hotline pulled out a most interesting snippet that sounds mighty randy to me…

According to the U-T, Wilkes also “ran a hospitality suite, with several bedrooms, in” DC — “first in the Watergate Hotel and then” in a Capitol Hill hotel.

Come again? A “hospitality suite with several bedrooms”?

Talk about raising more questions, including:

— Why does a lobbyist need a “hospitality suite with several bedrooms”?

— Who uses those bedrooms and for what?

These lobbying scandals involving Cunningham and Wilkes and Abramoff are looking more and more like a bad movie script every day.

Fast forward to the present and the WSJ:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn’t clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement. In an interview, the assistant general manager of the Watergate Hotel confirmed that federal investigators had requested, and been given, records relating to the investigation and rooms in the hotel.

…Mr. Wade told investigators that all the arrangements for these services had been made by Mr. Wilkes and two employees of Mr. Wilkes’s company, according to people with knowledge of his debriefing. He said Mr. Wilkes had rented the hotel suites and found the limousine driver, who had “relationships” with several escort services. Mr. Wade told prosecutors that sometimes Mr. Cunningham would contact him to request these services, and he would pass on the request to Mr. Wilkes or his employees, who then made the actual arrangement. Mr. Wade said that other times Mr. Cunningham called Mr. Wilkes directly to make the requests.

Oy. The sleaze factor is on red alert.

If you surf over to Think Progress, you can see video of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, featuring Dean Calbreath of the San Diego Union Tribune, who talks about the “half a dozen” members of Congress who are probably not sleeping well at night, knowing their names are in the “black book” for hooker service and may be made public.

Q: Was Gannon on the menu of “services”?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding