Saturday, July 23, 2005



I'm not a paranoid guy. I can let just about anything slide. (I mean I was never on a space ship but I had a couple of close encounters-- once with a witness-- and I'm totally NOT obsessed with it, never think about it, rarely talk about and can't believe I'm mentioning it now. Easy to let it slide.) But if I were a paranoid guy I'd be wondering why the L.A. Times is giving the Randy "Duke" Cunningham/Thomas Kontogiannis story a pass. AFTER the first (easy) part of Cunningham's bribery story was so done that it was ready to have a fork stuck in it, the L.A. Times half-heartedly mentioned that one of the most prominent local politicians was being investigated on bribery charges and wouldn't be running for re-election. But there was no mention of Thomas Kontogiannis or that Cunningham, besides being a conduit to the Pentagon's no-bid contracts department was also accused of being a conduit to the White House's any-felons-out-there-wanna-pay-now-for-a-pardon-later department.

It's not that hard to find the information about things like Cunningham and Kontogiannis online-- which is how bloggers got the dope on the first part of the story out in the first place (newspapers like the L.A. Times dragging along 4-5 weeks later), but just in case the L.A. Times was as asleep as it appears, I called them and told them about the Kontogiannis connection and sent them the info by e-mail. They claim that the story has legs and that it won't go away and that they'll run more later. We'll see. Meanwhile though, Congressman Randy "Duke livin' large free of charge" Cunningham, is playing victim, as all right wingers always do when caught with their hands in the cookie jar. It's not enough to get these crooks to slither out the back door; you can't stop 'til you've driven a silver stake into their villainous hearts. Cunningham's still not in prison; in fact, he's still in Congress. In fact, he's still sitting on the House Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, the 2 bodies to which he was selling access! Of course with people like Tom DeLay's pet duck, Doc Hastings, heading the House Ethics Committee, ole "Duke" could be selling nuclear secrets to bin-Laden and not get in any trouble-- as long as the dons of the GOP get their taste!

Before I go into the Kontogiannis story, the one the L.A. Times is sitting on (I guess a racket to sell convicted felons presidential pardons isn't that big a deal), let me reiterate Cunningham's modus operandi. Although no one ever accused him of being an intellectual or even one of the smarter members of a pretty brain dead caucus, Cunningham was smart enough-- unlike Rove's attorney-- not to take gold bars for his favours. Oh, no, "Duke" was too smart for that! If you wanted in on some Cunningham action, aside from giving free-flowing campaign contributions, you had to buy something from him at an exorbitant price. That's how he had the bribe money funneled his way. So smart, isn't he? The mechanics were so simple. Duke has a house for sale. It's worth x dollars so he lets someone who wants to bribe him know to buy it for x + $700,000 or he has a boat worth y dollars and the briber pays him y + $400,000. Isn't that slick? (Those are the real figures, by the way.) Meanwhile, the shrewdy has gotten an appraisal for these properties for the high prices so when he's caught he can say "But that was the price the independent appraiser said it was worth." It only took 5 minutes for investigators (not the L.A. Times) to discover that the "independent appraiser" was a loyal contributor to the far right congressman's campaigns. On top of all that, the defense contractor who Cunningham helped rake in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for defense equipment, allowed ole Duke to live on his fancy yacht-- coincidentally named "The Duke-ster"-- FOR FREE. Almost any reputable Ethics Committee chairman short of so blatant a crook as Doc Hastings would have acted on that by now. (Why do all these corrupt corporate shills call themselves cute nicknames like "Duke" and "Doc?" and "Hammer?" What do they think they are, a Mafia Family? Soon we'll be hearing about some heavy called "Mikey Suits.") Anyway, the L.A. Times reporter was right about one thing-- on the phone; not mentioned in his story-- it will take a LONG time to unravel all the nefarious goings-on "Duke" was involved in-- crooked real estate deals wherever you look, all sorts of craziness with boats, financial manipulations that would even get the Ohio GOP Establishment dizzy! So let's leave that in the hands of the State Attorney and move on to Cunningham's comfy relationship with Thomas Kontogiannis.

Kontogiannis, a Long Island Republican real estate developer, could have his picture in a dictionary next to the definition of "sleaze." And he knew just where to turn for a presidential pardon after pleading guilty in a serious bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal that cheated Queens school students out of $5 million dollars worth of computers: Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Kontogiannis' partner in crime-- who also plead guilty, was the District School Superintendent and a failed Republican candidate for Congress (financed, of course, by Kontogiannis), Celestine Miller who wound up with 4 houses (worth approximately $1 million) + $80,000 in campaign contributions for her participation in the felony. Kontogiannis bought a boat, now abandoned and worthless, from ole "Duke," the "Kelly C." for at least $400,000 more than it was worth to obtain Duke's help in getting Bush to pardon him. The question the L.A. Times and other news outlets should be asking is who at the White House was Duke's liaison with the pardon-granting apparatus? Or was this just a cozy little deal between Duke and Bush? And if so, how much of the $400,000 was Bush's cut? (Kontogiannis was paying off Duke in many other ways besides the outright $400,000 bribe-- which means that could have ALL been for Bush-- by giving him a series of discount loans (to the tune of at least another half million dollars) for real estate deals, one for a quick turn-around condo venture in Arlington, VA (which netted "Duke" a comfy $150,000 profit and involved another criminal associate of Cunningham's, a Joseph M. Della Ratta, a crooked real estate developer recently nailed for stealing from an asset management plan of which he was a trustee).

The L.A. Times has left all of this out of their coverage and don't expect to find any mention of it on CNN (let alone Fox). Meanwhile The Pentagon voided their 5 year contract with the defense contractor who was bribing Cunningham, Mitchell Wade's MZM. The Pentagon's inspector general found the $163 million dollar no-bid deal did not satisfy rules on competitiveness. Cunningham's long-time crony-- another extreme right-wing notorious bribe-taker, Jerry Lewis, (not the funny one, a California Republican who chaired the defense appropriations subcommittee until this year), tried covering his own ass by claiming, absurdly, that programs approved under his leadership had military value and "passed the smell test." Lewis is lying his ass off and ought to be hauled in front of a grand jury and charged with bribery and wartime profiteering. This piece of human filth should spend the rest of his miserable life behind bars-- with Cunningham, DeLay, Hastings and the rest of the GOP Congressional Crime Syndicate.

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