House panel probes Defense bills for taint of scandal

A senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee has prompted an investigation of the last three defense authorization bills, to review requests made by disgraced former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham. The California Republican was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors in return for earmarks.

Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee ranking member Vic Snyder, D-Ark., had called for a probe into the panel's interactions with Cunningham in three separate letters to Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and ranking member Ike Skelton, D-Mo., over the last two months.

The committee reviewed the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill in the last several weeks, and found no evidence of impropriety, according to a letter Hunter sent Snyder Wednesday. In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by CongressDaily, Hunter also pledged to look at the fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005 bills.

After receiving the letter, Snyder said he appreciated the response, but added that he wants the committee to review Cunningham's actions dating back as far as a decade.

According to Hunter's letter, both Republican and Democratic staffers will review the information relating to the past authorization bills, provide a description of Cunningham's requests, and detail actions taken by committee members from the bills' markups through the conclusion of the House and Senate conferences on the bills.

Cunningham resigned from Congress in late November after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes from contractors. He was sentenced earlier this month to eight years and four months in federal prison.

His scandal has focused attention on campaign donations and the appropriations process, especially the use of spending earmarks to steer federal funds to specific contractors or local programs. So far, the role of defense authorizers has not been an issue.

The House Intelligence Committee launched a similar investigation to determine if Cunningham improperly influenced committee actions or spending decisions for classified projects.

"They're a little late to the parade, but I still think it's an important step to make sure this whole sort of embarrassing era has ended," said Keith Ashdown at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

In his letters, Snyder raised concerns that Cunningham's reach might have extended beyond the Defense appropriations bill and could have influenced language in the annual defense authorization measure. Cunningham was a member of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, and was Hunter's close friend and political ally, partly due to their adjoining San Diego-area districts.

"The committee is owed the assurance that neither the institution nor the staff was involved or used for anything improper," Snyder said in his latest and most detailed letter, dated March 16.

In that letter, Snyder suggested the parameters for an investigation that would center on an exhaustive review of Cunningham's requests to the committee, whether those requests involved companies tied to the bribery scandal and whether those requests were honored.

"The Congress and the American people deserve to be assured that our committee structure, staffing, policies and procedures are up to the task of preventing and detecting unethical behavior by staff, members or lobbyists," Snyder wrote.

But Snyder also wanted the committee to probe deeper and investigate whether any other lawmakers requested projects for companies involved in the bribery scandal.

"It would be nearly impossible to go back and cross-reference all of this," an Armed Services spokesman said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.