Readers of my book will recall that when the FBI searched Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s mansion in 2005 they came across a copy of a letter that defense contractor Brent Wilkes had sent the congressman. Enclosed with the letter was a video of all-day drive trip in the waters off the Big Island that Wilkes had arranged for Cunningham, who is now serving more than eight years in prison for accepting millions of dollars in bribes.
Wilkes is now on trial in San Diego for supplying Cunningham with more than $600,000 in bribes. In court, prosecutors showed a bit of the video last week as they wrapped up their case against him. (Note that it’s silent until the end)
It was one of the most powerful pieces of evidence presented in court. There’s something so surreal about this video, from the self-referential joke at the beginning to the Rodgers and Hammerstein reference at the end. It’s about a clear a portrait of corruption as I’ve ever seen. The dive trip cost more than $2,000, which was a fraction of the $50,000 cost of the trip. Wilkes put Cunningham up in the $6,600-a-night Hapuna Suite. There was a golf outing. Kona lobster was served on the suite’s private lawn. And on consecutive nights, prosecutors say that Wilkes paid for two different escorts for Cunningham.