Brent Wilkes

From Bwtm

Poway businessman Brent Wilkes funneled campaign donations to key lawmakers as he tried to build a defense empire


The power of persuasion

Long before he was identified as a co-conspirator in former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham's corruption case, Poway businessman Brent Wilkes boasted of his prowess in persuading powerful lawmakers to help him push contracts through Congress.

To get a $25 million contract for a start-up defense company, Wilkes said he needed about $1.5 million for lobbying and related expenses, according to a lawsuit filed against him by a former business partner. He allegedly told his partner that about half the $25 million would be pure profit.

When Wilkes made that boast, he already had been awarded about $80 million in contracts through the congressional process known as earmarking, which allows lawmakers to slip projects into the federal budget to benefit particular causes or companies.

Cunningham admitted directing federal contracts to Wilkes in exchange for more than $630,000 in bribes. Cunningham and his political action committee also received at least $76,500 in legal campaign contributions from Wilkes and his associates.

But Cunningham wasn't the only lawmaker who benefited from Wilkes' war chest.

From 1995 to 2005, as Wilkes got federal funding for his family of small defense companies, he steered more than $600,000 in contributions to lawmakers and their political action committees.

The biggest beneficiary was House Appropriations Committee member John Doolittle from the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, who received at least $82,000 from Wilkes, his close relatives, employees and business partners. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of Redlands received $60,000. Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, got $39,200.

In recent years, Wilkes focused on former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who got $57,000 from 2002 to 2004. In September, DeLay was indicted in Texas, accused of funneling corporate donations into elections in violation of state law. Wilkes has been subpoenaed in the case.

There is no indication that any legislator other than Cunningham made illegal deals with Wilkes. But the timing of Wilkes' many political donations closely parallels the approval of earmarks for ADCS, PerfectWave Technologies and other businesses in his corporate family.

“It almost looks like a legalized laundering of money: 'You give us $1 million for a contract and we'll make sure you'll get your share,' ” said Keith Ashdown, vice president for policy and communications at Citizens for Taxpayer Common Sense, a nonpartisan group in Washington that monitors federal spending.

Local Cunningham-linked defense contractor is sued

In the latest twist to the drama surrounding former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a San Diego defense company is suing a Poway firm that the plaintiff says worked with Cunningham to snatch away contracts for ship defense systems.

The lawsuit alleges that Poway resident Brent Wilkes, and Cunningham, who in December pleaded guilty to taking bribes from defense contractors, worked illegally to steer contracts away from San Diego-based American Technology Corp. to a company Wilkes controlled.

Michael Lipman, an attorney for Wilkes, said Thursday the lawsuit was "totally without merit."

The lawsuit asked for unspecified damages for the money American Technology says it lost because of Wilkes, Cunningham and others.

The suit alleges that Wilkes' company, ADCS Inc., unlawfully pressured public officials, including "former Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, who in turn influenced the performance of official acts related to defense contracts and orders," the plaintiffs state in a lawsuit filed Jan. 13 in San Diego Superior Court.

ADCS probed in 2000 by Defense Department

More than five years before former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty to taking millions in bribes, the Department of Defense sent the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego an investigative report on a Poway defense company that was later linked to Cunningham.

The 2000 report discussed alleged overbillings by ADCS Inc., a defense firm that in 2005 became a focal point of the Cunningham bribery scandal, Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, said Wednesday.

Kyle (Dusty) Foggo

As logistics chief at the CIA's main base near Frankfurt, Germany, Kyle (Dusty) Foggo sat at the crossroads of agency operations. Operatives and VIPs passed through, and former top spies say Foggo was customarily on hand to greet them. After Porter Goss took over as CIA director, many agency veterans were astonished when the former House intel chair chose Foggo, a midranking bureaucrat, to become CIA executive director, the agency's third-ranking official, responsible for day-to-day operations. Insiders attributed his rise to his mastery of office politics. But Foggo's glad-handing has raised awkward questions. Federal prosecutors have accused (as an unindicted co-conspirator) one of Foggo's closest friends, San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes, of participating in a scheme to bribe Randall (Duke) Cunningham, the GOP congressman from San Diego who resigned his seat after pleading guilty to federal corruption and tax charges.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham

Cunningham taken into custody, ordered to repay $1.8 million