WANTED: THE PHOTO OF DUKE CUNNINGHAM, TOMMY KONTOGIANNIS AND GEORGE W. BUSH, 3 CRIMINALS WORKING ON A PRESIDENTIAL PARDON SCHEME
I don't know if the San Diego Union-Tribune has turned into one of the best investigative newspapers in America or if they just happen to have the most crooked officials in their area to write about (between Duncan Hunter, Jerry Lewis, Brian Bilbray, Howard Kaloogian, Dana Rohrbacher and, of course, former area resident Randy "Duke" Cunningham). But whatever the reason, anyone who wants to follow the intricacies and machinations of the Republican Culture of Corruption in Washington DC is better off reading the San Diego Union-Tribune than even the New York Times or Washington Post!
Today Joey Cantupe has penned a much-needed follow-up on a side road of the Cunningham scandals few reporters have ventured down: sleazy New York Republican mystery man and big time briber Thomas "Gus" Kontogiannis. I started looking into Kontogiannis last summer when it started to look like Cunningham was getting caught for all the millions and millions of bribes he was taking as part of the criminal conspiracy that was Jerry Lewis' Defense Appropriations Committee.
You'll find my Kontogiannis research-- with some huffing and puffing-- on the link I've attached to his name above. The Union-Tribune has some of that background too. They make a good point that I missed, namely that Cunningham was like a kept-woman for Kontogiannis-- as they call it "a congressman on retainer." He was hoping that-- and bankrolling-- Cunningham's future, not as a prison inmate but as the next Donald Rumsfeld. An FBI agent working on the case put it like this: "Let's look at it this way. Duke Cunningham had power and no money, and Tommy Kontogiannis had money [$70 million range, not Cheney or Bush kind of wealth] but no power." (And on this not too complicated concept, Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum were able to subvert the American democratic system into the Republican Culture of Corruption that has come to rule in DC-- and that has already sent Cunningham to prison and will soon send dozens of Republican elected officials to the same fate.) Oh, and Kontogiannis is also a two-time convicted criminal, both times for bribery, and must have a pardon in order to avail himself of lucrative business opportunities with Uncle Sam.
In 2000, Kontogiannis was arrested for receiving more than $2 million in kickbacks in a bid-rigging scheme involving junk computer foisted on the Queens School District. The district Superintendent, Celestine Miller, a Republican scam artist, with absurd pretensions to get elected to Congress helped Kontogiannis defraud the district. He financed her doomed campaign, in part by giving her a brown paper bag filled with $50,000 in cash. That Cunningham sold him a presidential pardon for $400,000 is the most covered-up part of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandals. That's because there's only one person who can grant presidential pardons and it isn't Randy "Duke" Cunningham (nor is it Vice President Cheney, nor Irving Libby, nor Michael Brown, nor Gale Norton, nor Tom DeLay nor any of the myriad corrupt scoundrels Bush has surrounded himself with. Only Bush can grant a presidential pardon. What was his cut of the $400,000 bribe from Kontogiannis?
My favorite paragraph in the Union-Tribune story is: "The two men also visited the White House together. Kontogiannis had his picture taken with Cunningham at a White House reception, and friends of Kontogiannis say the businessman kept a photo of himself with Cunningham and President Bush in his house." I bet federal prosecutors would love to have it!
But there's more-- Kontogiannis and a shady Saudi operative living in Southern California, Ziyad Abduljawad, took Cunningham and another crooked Republican California congressloon, Ken Calvert, to Saudi Arabia. Calvert and Cunningham were not there for sightseeing-- nor on government business, at least not legitimate government business.
Kontogiannis is the very worst kind of human detritus, a wealthy crook who has stolen and cheated his way to the top of the financial heap, an utter scumbag treating everyone "below" him with haughty contempt. He has dozens of law suits pending against him, mostly for cheating everyone he's done any kind of business with. That he found the GOP and low-life whores and rogues like Duke Cunningham, Peter King, Ken Calvert and George W. Bush is completely fitting. Hopefully they'll all share a prison cell someday.