August 05, 2006

Brent Wilkes Speaks

Brent Wilkes has decided to go public with what he knows about the Congressional corruption scandal (via the eagle-eyed TPMMuckraker, Justin Rood). Tomorrow's NY Times has an interview with Mr. Wilkes that starts with this anecdote:

In 1992, Brent R. Wilkes rented a suite at the Hyatt Hotel a few blocks from the Capitol. In his briefcase was a stack of envelopes for a half-dozen congressmen, each packet containing up to $10,000 in checks.

Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.

Bill Lowery is a founder of Copeland Lowery, the lobbying powerhouse that is so prominent in its connections to Rep. Charles Jeremy (Jerry) Lewis. Lowery started lobbying after leaving the house during the 1992 banking scandal. He was replaced by Duke Cunningham currently spending time in prison for his taking bribes to sell out his constituents and America troops.

Wilkes insists that he did nothing wrong, and he did not bribe the members of Congress with his campaign contributions, but rather they were necessary in order to get his contracts.

But Mr. Wilkes acknowledged that he was a willing participant in what he characterized as a “cutthroat” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite for federal contracts. “I attempted to get help and advice from people who could show me the way to do it right,” Mr. Wilkes said. “I played by their rules, and I played to win.”

In other words, it was a "shakedown", not a bribe, but it didn't make it illegal, simply the price of doing business these days. What members of Congress would do after receiving their "contributions", were to put in earmarks that would deliver contracts to people like Wilkes.

The Times reports that the 2006 spending bills contained some 12,000 earmarks amounting to $64 billion. Obviously, people like Wilkes certainly got what they wanted from their government. And it is quite lucrative. Since 1997, Wilkes has "contributed" some $706,000 to his favorite congressmen and during that time he has received close to $100 million in federal contracts. That's not too shabby of a return on his investment.

As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Jerry Lewis is under a lot of scrutiny these days. He recently retained a very familiar spokesperson to help refute these charges. Barbara Comstock says there is absolutely no truth to what Brent Wilkes has said about her client.

(Gosh, Barbara is a busy little spokesperson, now that she has Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby, and Lewis to keep out of trouble.)

Wilkes blabbed about a whole bunch of his friends and contacts including his old high school friend, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who recently resigned from the number 3 position in the CIA under a cloud, Tom DeLay's "spiritual advisor", Ed Buckham, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) all who had helped him out in one way or another.

The Times article ends with Wilkes sadly thinking about his lost glory days when he could get his picture taken with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Bush advisor, Karl Rove. Today they won't give him the time of day.

Posted by Mary at August 5, 2006 04:58 PM | Corruption & Graft | Technorati links |