Affidavit says Cunningham intervened on limo firm's behalf
Contract was awarded through full and open competition, and alleged letter on company's behalf is nowhere to be found, DHS says.
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., Thursday said his panel has an affidavit from the president of Shirlington Limousine -- the firm accused of ferrying convicted former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., and prostitutes to Washington hotels -- that indicates Cunningham recommended his firm get a Homeland Security Department contract for transportation services.
King noted that Christopher Baker, Shirlington's president, had a criminal record and business dealings with a defense contractor named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of Cunningham, who is serving more than eight years in prison after admitting accepting $2.4 million in bribes from that contractor and others.
"And then we find out that the congressman at the center of all of this sends a letter on behalf of this limousine company," King said. "If that doesn't raise issues, if that isn't more than a series of coincidences, I don't know what is."
"I find it disgraceful that [Homeland Security] Secretary Chertoff knew that a convicted felon who was at the center of one of the worst scandals ever has not sent a word to us about this," said King, who did not make the affidavit public.
But Elaine Duke, Homeland Security's chief procurement officer, said a search of her department's files did not find any such letter, although it did produce an e-mail from another Shirlington Limousine executive saying it would be among several documents they were sending to the department.
Baker, Shirlington's president, later promised to give the department a copy of Cunningham's letter, Duke said, but decided against it after meeting with committee members.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Larry Orluskie said the department's position is that Shirlington Limousine's contracts were awarded through "a full and open competition" in which Cunningham had no role.
"There is no letter," Orluskie said, adding that Duke "had to dig'' to find the e-mail.
None of the documents promised by Shirlington's executive in the e-mail have showed up, Orluskie added. "They could have been faxed to anywhere in the agency and ended in some bin."
Outside the hearing, King questioned the department's failure to find Cunningham's letter, the Associated Press reported. "Did somebody clean out the file?" he asked.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman said that never happened.
Although Shirlington Limousine qualified for the contract under a set-aside program known as the Historically Underutilized Business Zone program, its offices were located in a luxury highrise. Homeland Security Management Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said he found that "a bit odd."