Why Cunningham Is Far Worse Than Moran

I’ve been pissed off for a while at the general level of corruption in national politics, and have spent much of my energy bashing my fellow Democrats for not cleaning up their act, because that would leave the GOP so damn vulnerable.

But for all my disgust at John “MBNA” Moran (D-VA and several large banks), there’s something especially sordid about Duke Cunningham’s betrayal of his fellow members of the military.

Because there’s just no other word for systematically subverting the military procurement process for cash.

Do you really believe that the soldiers who depend on whatever the hell it is that MZM and ADCS make got the best that could be bought?

And don’t you think there’s a special place in hell for an ex-military hero who sold out today’s soldiers for a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe?

[Update: Added link.]

15 thoughts on “Why Cunningham Is Far Worse Than Moran”

  1. It’s particularly disgusting when an oath of office is involved, but recent Defense Department procurement scandals have caused a couple of that agency’s officials into prison – and Bunnatine’s firing was not even vaguely ‘for cause’ other than her determined opposition to the unexamined awards to Halliburton. What astonishes me is how easily the public accepts open corruption and mistreatment of its servicepeople.

  2. A.L…. details? Link? Would like to know more re: the incident in question.

    SAO, I’m working on a piece over at Defense Industry Daily that will cover exactly that subject. Just got permission from James Fallows to use an extended excerpt from his 1981 book “National Defense”, plus an Acrobat presentation from Chuck Spinney on the broken aspects of the procurement system. Mix in a couple very recent GAO Reports which serve as shining examples of the phenomena described, stir, and serve.

    It will take me no small amount of effort and a couple of days to do, but when it’s ready I’ll cross post at least the intro and a link here.

    Just as AL goes after his fellow Democrats because he believes they ought to be better….

  3. By all means, throw the book at him, and how about the indictments for those who passed him the bribes?

    I’ve never sold directly to the armed services, but I’ve been involved with a few companies that have (infrastructure). In my observation, a lot of the vendor/buyer give and take is mediated by people who have worn the uniform, and are members of what I’ve heard called the ‘Club’. There is, I believe, a presumption on the part of those currently serving that those who have in the past will try to Do The Right Thing, in the light of their circumstances. That is a good thing, since that presumption of trust goes a long way towards mitigating the horrendous transaction costs that are built into the current procurement system. And that’s Cunningham’s deeper crime: the betrayal of that circle of trust in time of war, when we need it most.

    It’s definitely worth talking about how we got here, as SAO and Joe suggest. There’s absolutely a need for oversight and regulation in procurement. A ‘market’ with a single buyer and little means of objective evaluation in peacetime is a recipe for moral hazard, and there have been plenty of scandals to show it.

    But we seem to be overshot in the other direction, where the process has become an end in itself. I was once privileged to have a short conversation with James Burke, when he came out with the short adage “Systems dump excess energy in the form of structure”. He was talking about ecosystems, but if ‘money’ is substituted for ‘energy’, I’ve found the same to be true of organizations. I believe it’s observably true of the Pentagon, but what was excess in peacetime is not when there’s a real war on. The immense amounts of time, energy, and money dissipated by both contractor and program managers in the procurement process lead to the incredible level of program overhead aptly critiqued by Spinney and others, and is an unaffordable luxury in war.

    Cunningham deserves everything he gets, but he is a symptom. Opposite from the moral hazard risks of under regulation, we’ve ended up with a form of regulatory capture and a wink-and-nob entry barrier created on behalf of those who know the system, from both sides. This is a symptom of over-regulation. Encrusting the system with more oversight will create yet more incentive and opportunity to game it and the overseers. The accelerated procurement processes to support the troops in action, and the rough-and-ready “buy it on the Net and stick it in the shipping container” buying practiced by some of Guard troops show the way. Time to simplify.

  4. Cunningham is just one more member of the AirForce/Navy club that thinks their wings make them invulnerable, and he’s closer to “Maverick” than most having run the top gun school for a while. This will continue to happen as long as there is an old boys club in the military (has there ever been a military without such a club?).

  5. In Boston,Todd Cunningham, 29, the son of U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), was sentenced on November 17 to 2-1/2 years in federal prison for marijuana smuggling. (that’s rich considering his father shrills screaming to execute dealers suddenly didn’t apply to his drug dealing son.)

    Rep. Cunningham, who has supported the death penalty for drug traffickers, made a *tearful plea to U.S.Judge Reginald C. Lindsay for leniency for his son.

    Prosecutors supported the sentence, which is half the mandatory five year term for such an offense, because Cunningham provided information about other offenders involved in the smuggling operation in the MILLIONS of DOLLARS.

    *Cunningham, knows when to turn on the tears doesn’t he? For years he was screaming like a bitch in heat “supporting the death penalty for drug dealers” and all the while:

    His son tested positive THREE TIMES for cocaine while out on bail for drug smuggling operation he was busted for. When the officers came to pick him up for the violation he jumped out of a second story window and broke his leg in the escape attempt.

    It’s actually a shame his tears worked, he could be in prison with his son if the legal penalties had not been manipulated by those “handy dandy tears.”

  6. Cunningham deserves everything he gets. I wonder how much of his guily plea relates to his son receiving a lighter sentence?

    I would suggest that the liberals among us note that Cunningham pled guilty. It has now become obvious that the coruption probe has led to all Congressmen and Senators.

    Just watch; will you see honest admissions or the squeeling of those afronted that their campaign receipts from suspect sources match the time they took action in Congress. Dorgen, the first, has already started. He should recuse himslef.

  7. PS. Why is Cunningham worse thatn Moran. Cunningham pled guilty; Moran squeeled. Both were corrupt and should not be in Congress. Why is Moran still there.

  8. Belmont Club has a lengthy post describing Cunningham’s astounding bravery in becoming an Ace on day in Vietnam, facing off against MiGs in incredible odds.

    Well worth reading.

    Bottom line, politics requires different skills than military heroics. I have no doubt whatsoever that Cunningham, McCain, Murtha, and possibly even Kerry were brave and risked death repeatedly for their country and fellow servicemen.

    But the qualities that made them effective in combat (risk taking, aggressiveness, pushing the line, throwing away the book when pressed in by events, etc) led to them being hounded by unethical (McCain with the Keating 5 scandal, Murtha and Kerry with their own financial shenanigans and so on) to illegal behavior.

    We should honor military heroes, but not expect that this makes for effective politicians. Politics requires professionals who understand the ethics and the own sets of courage needed to turn down easy money in favor of political courage. We tend to think that success in combat translates into wisdom in politics and usually that is not true (Washington and Jackson being perhaps the only exceptions). Most of our best politicians (FDR, Eisenhower, Lincoln) had organizational experience but very little if any combat heroics. While someone like JFK approached the Presidency with all the risk taking of the PT 109 that was inappropriate for the nation (Bay of Pigs amateur hour, Cuban Missile Crisis idiotic brinkmanship).

  9. I worked for a defence contractor that got a request from the Air Force for 4 special stainless steel bolts used in a product we sold them.

    We were willing to give the bolts to the AF for no charge as a good will item. Not enough $$ involved, they were an item we stocked so nice guys that we were we would charge them off to good will.

    The AF however wanted the paperwork certifying that the bolts met spec. etc.

    So according to the government rules we charged them $200 for the bolts.

    The anti-fraud controls in place cost way more than the $$ saved.

    Fraud ought to be tracked by investigators not paperwork.

    I blame Congress.

  10. I find the uproar over this hysterical. The man was already a known thief: as a member of Congress he presided over the fencing of several billion dollars of stolen property every year. Why is everyone so surprised that he could be bribed a little to steer the flow of loot one way or the other?

  11. Oh, and yes, there is a special Circle of Hell. According to “Dante’s Inferno,”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Divine_Comedy it’s Level 8, Ditch 5. A lake of burning pitch is apparently involved. Bet the spa food sucks, too…

    Meanwhile, “POGO has his resignation statement.”:http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2005/11/cunningham_plea.html#more

    bq.. I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I’ve compromised the trust of my constituents.

    When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public — even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.

    The truth is — I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.

    Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.

    In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

    The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God’s grace, I will soon take the second.

    Thank you.”

    p. This doesn’t cancel what he did. He still betrayed his fellow soldiers. But it is refreshing not to hear even one jot of weaseling, denial, or qualification – just full acceptance of the truth and consequences, and a real, unqualified apology that acknowledges its inability to fully repair the wrong. Perhaps his officer training wasn’t completely wasted after all.

    I wish more people in these situations took his approach.

  12. I’ve heard alot of people say “well at least he realized what he did…” as if this apology could only come from the goodness of his heart.

    Let’s face it: he was trapped. He was going to get nabbed anyway. IF he confesses, maybe he’ll get some time off his sentence, maybe his name will be a little less synonomous with greed, maybe he’ll even sleep a little better at night.

    If he came out on his own, with no running investigation, I would give him credit. Once your under investigation, it’s now called ‘saving your own ass’.

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