Yes it’s true: Randy “Duke” Cunningham has written another sad, revealing jailhouse letter to the judge who sentenced him to 100 months in federal prison for low behavior in high office.
The Vietnam war hero and disgraced ex-Congressman, who is now 70, writes that he’s set to leave prison as his sentence comes to an end later this year. He says he plans to live in a cabin near Greer’s Lake in the Ozarks and write books. He will be “away from the (San Diego) Union-Tribune,” the newspaper that exposed his corruption in 2005, and there won’t be many people around to bother him, “but they do have a lot of black bears, cougars, and history of rabies.”
In his letter, Cunningham is at turns whining, boastful and self-pitying as he asks Judge Burns to restore his second amendment rights. “I flew aircraft that could disintegrate your building with a half-second burst and now can’t carry a .22-cal,” he writes.
The Duke says he needs a gun “to earn a little money so he can eat.” He’s poor now and homeless — thanks to the government, he writes. “Don’t guess we can do to (sic) much for our veterans after all,” Cunningham whines.
He says he will use the gun for hunting and competition and then adds in a handwritten postscript, “I will also hunt to supliment (sic) my food.”
To this mess of a letter, this mess of a man, Judge Burns’ response is understated elegance. Burns says he has no authority to restore Duke’s gun rights; that authority with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms:
You should be aware, however, that every year since 1992, Congress has refused to provide funding to the ATF to review applications from the federal firearm ban. And the United States Supreme Court has ruled that inaction by the ATF does not amount to “denial” of the application within the meaning of section 925(c) United States v. Bean 537 US 71, 75 (2002). So unless Congress changes course and decides to fund ATF’s review of applications for relief, it appears you are stuck.
Randy "Duke" Cunningham May 16 letter to judge// < ![CDATA[
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The judge’s response:
Judge Larry Burns Response to Randy "Duke" Cunningham
подаръциикона за подаръкCalifornia GOP bigwig Gerald Parsky of Rancho Santa Fe is being deposed today about his relationship with Alfred Villalobos, a former board member CEO of CalPERS, the Golden State’s giant pension, who has been accused of accused of bribing pension fund officials with luxury trips and gifts to influence investment decisions.
CalPERS tried to forestall this airing of its dirty laundry, but a federal judge blocked the pension’s request to stop the deposition from taking place.
Villalobos was paid more than $47 million in commissions by private equity and real estate investment managers to help them win CalPERS contracts to manage about $4.8 billion worth of the fund’s securities from 2005 to 2009, according to a lawsuit filed by the California Attorney General’s office.
One of those private equity firms was Aurora Capital Group of Los Angeles, which hired Villalobos in 2008. Parsky is Aurora’s chairman. He’s also a former assistant Treasury secretary, a UC regent and was George W. Bush’s major doom in California.
So politically connected is Parsky that ARVCO allegedly intervened with CalPERS staff to obtain investment money for Aurora, pointing out the political juice that Parsky brought with him, according to an independent law firm investigation of the matter. CalPERS coughed up $400 million for Aurora Resurgence in 2008, earning Villalobos and his firm, ARVCO, a $4 million fee. Another $150 million CalPERS investment in a different Aurora fund, netted nearly $2 million for ARVCO.
Today, Parsky is being deposed in Los Angeles. Tomorrow, Aurora’s general counsel, Timothy Hart, will get his turn.
It’s been a long time since we heard from Brent “The Enigma” Wilkes. But the Enigma is back, baby!
Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Wilkes a new hearing in his case in San Diego federal court.
Wilkes, you may recall, was the sleazy defense contractor at the center of the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery trial. Cunningham steered defense contracts to Wilkes, who used the money to live high on the hog. He was poker buddies with Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, once the No. 3 guy at the CIA.
In 2008, Wilkes was convicted of bribing Cunningham with prostitutes and other goodies and sentenced to 12 years prison. By all rights, he should be there. But Wilkes, the master manipulator, continues to game the system.
The 9th Circuit allowed Wilkes to go free on bond pending his appeal. While Cunningham, Foggo and others do time, Wilkes runs around playing poker at San Diego casinos (where he goes by the nickname “The Enigma”). Meanwhile, his taxpayer-funded attorneys bombard federal prosecutors with reams of paper on his behalf. What a fucking waste.
Now it looks like the legal maneuvering by Team Enigma will drag into a fourth year. Your taxpayer dollars bought Wilkes more time because The Enigma’s lawyers argued successfully that the judge presided over Wilkes jury trial failed to read the minds of the judges 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The trial judge, Larry Burns, declined to grant immunity to one of the government’s witnesses that Wilkes wanted to call for his defense. According to the 9th Circuit, this was a no-no because Burns failed to apply the 9th Circuit’s holding in a separate, unrelated case that was decided after Burns made his ruling. Wow. Just wow.
All of Wilkes other arguments were brushed aside, including one that I found particularly interesting: Why was Cunningham never called to testify. According to prosecutors, “one of the reasons the Government did not call Cunningham at trial was because prosecutors did not trust him to refrain from fabricating testimony that he believed would help the prosecution (and thus enhance his chances for a reduced sentence).”
If you’ve found your way to this page, there’s a good chance that you’re a journalist who has just had the pleasure of meeting an unusually aggressive PR flak named Jim McCarthy.
First off, relax. If anything, the fact that you’ve run into Jim may be a good thing. This guy has represented some major league Wall Street crooks, so there’s a chance that you’re on to something.
CounterPoint’s current and former clients include:
- Elliott Broidy, a wealthy California investor who pleaded guilty to paying $1 million in bribes to influence former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
- Ira Rennert’s Renco Group and its Doe Run subsidiary St. Louis, the largest lead producer in the Western hemisphere. Jim does not want you to watch this video about the company’s operations in Peru.
- The Formaldehyde Council
- The National Fisheries Institute (Think mercury)
- Bond insurer MBIA.
- The College Sports Council
- Hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted of securities fraud. (Update: Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years in prison.)
- Dallas-based Kosmos Energy, majority-owned by private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Warburg Pincus.
I had the pleasure of dealing with Mr. McCarthy a few times when I was investigating one of those crooks, a guy named Elliot Broidy, so I decided to put together this handy-dandy guide for the perplexed:
Jim is president of CounterPoint Strategies, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. that specializes in an aggressive, combative style of crisis management. Jim is the real-life version of the fictional tobacco flak in Christopher Buckley’s novel Thank You For Smoking. His job is to make your story about you.
He’s the son of liberal journalist and peace activist Colman McCarthy. The acorn fell pretty far from the tree in this case, although the dynamics of that relationship must be pretty interesting. Young Jim registered as a Republican at age 18.
Early in his PR career, Jim handled a variety of Fortune 500 and foreign government accounts for two public relations agencies in Washington, Ruder-Finn and Nichols-Dezenhall, the “brass-knuckled boys” of DC’s PR world.
In 1994, McCarthy started a boutique public relations agency, McCarthy Communications. McCarthy Communications reportedly billed one client, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe of central Michigan, $280,000 for a media campaign designed to force out the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Replying to a BIA spokesman who said he had never seen such tactics, McCarthy said, “I say to Mr. Hackler, welcome to the Beltway.”
A confidential McCarthy Communications proposal was obtained by The Washington Post. (See William Claiborne, “Tribe PR Drive Targeted BIA Head”, The Washington Post, Aug. 16, 1999)
McCarthy was hired by the Augusta National Golf Club in 2002 when the men-only club was under pressure by activist [[Martha Burk]] to admit women. McCarthy advised a “pugnacious” approach. “My clients appreciate that I like to get in the arena, take off the gloves and throw down,” McCarthy told Alan Shipnuck, who wrote a book about Augusta’s battle to keep women out. (See Taking on the Times”, Sports Illustrated, April 6, 2004.)
It’s the first time I’ve done this kind of media criticism as part of an overall strategy for a client, and I don’t know of any other PR firm that has done it. It’s pretty cutting-edge. Big PR firms are like large corporations in that they have always been afraid to take on the press directly, because there is this belief if you create an adversarial relationship, you will never be treated fairly again. But for a venerable institution like Augusta National to embrace that strategy, well, that has certainly opened some eyes. Now I’m trying to build media-crit-driven crisis management into stand-alone business. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be snapped up by a big, deep-pocketed PR firm.
In 2004, McCarthy co-founded Public Interest Watch, a Washington nonprofit heavily funded by Exxon Mobil. According to BusinessWeek, McCarthy’s ex-employer, renamed Dezenhall Resources, helped create PIW in 2002 specifically to prod the IRS to go after Greenpeace.
Just as McCarthy had hoped, deep pockets did find him. McCarthy Communications was hired in 2004 to represent investor Kenneth Langone, who was named in a lawsuit by then-New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. On Langone’s behalf, McCarthy has repeatedly attacked the credibility of Gretchen Morgenson, a Pulitzer Prize winning business journalist for The New York Times, saying businesspeople regarded her with “pure contempt.” Apparently, Langone didn’t like it that Morgenson pointed out how Langone was a poster boy for executive overcompensation.
In 2008, McCarthy co-founded CounterPoint Strategies. McCarthy is the oversized face of CounterPoint, but behind the scenes is CounterPoint’s chairman, David “Nick” Nichols, a former investigative journalist who went on to found Nichols-Dezenhall, McCarthy’s old stomping grounds.
Before forming Nichols-Dezenhall, Nichols served as a campaign press secretary for New York City Mayor John Lindsay and then headed to Wisconsin where he served as a legislative staffer. Nichols also served for several as a senior media spokesperson for the Cuban-Haitian Task Force, which was charged with dealing with the thousands of refugees from Castro’s Cuba in the Mariel boat lift.
Share your McCarthy horror stories below:
Broidy, former chairman of Markstone Capital Group, pleaded guilty in December to a felony and admitted showering officials at the New York state pension fund with nearly $1 million in exchange for a $250 million investment in Markstone. As part of his plea, Broidy agreed to cooperate with investigators with the New York State attorney general’s office.
The news today is that Alan Hevesi, the New York comptroller who oversaw the pension fund, reportedly intends to plead guilty apparently for taking Broidy’s “gifts.” Broidy paid $75,000 to send Hevesi and his relatives on five trips to Israel, including first-class airfare, luxury hotel accommodations and a security detail, according to several reports.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
A person familiar with the matter at the time said Mr. Hevesi had long expressed a desire to stay at the historic King David hotel, which overlooks Jerusalem’s Old City. Mr. Broidy paid for a stay there, this person said.
Readers of this blog might note how similar this is to the $63,000 trip CalPERS investment officer Leon Shahinian made to New York in 2007. Shahinian’s private jet and his lavish hotel suite were paid for by billionaire Leon Black. At the time, Black and his agent, Al Villalobos, CalPERS was considering investing $700 million Black’s Apollo Global Management. Guess Jerry Brown isn’t as determined to root out pension corruption as Cuomo.
But I digress.
Broidy used his New York connections to leverage an investment in CalPERS. At the time of Broidy’s guilty plea, the LA Times reported that:
In 2003, Broidy mounted a major selling effort to get CalPERS to invest in his firm, according to documents released by CalPERS that report meetings between investment pitchmen and board members. Letters from Broidy to board members indicate that Markstone sought to leverage the New York investment into business with CalPERS, which eventually agreed to invest $50 million in Markstone.
Broidy even brought New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi with him to a meeting in Sacramento with CalPERS staff to pitch Markstone in 2003. One of those meetings was with then-state Treasurer and CalPERS board member Phil Angelides. Broidy offered to bring Angelides and other California officials to Israel to see its economic strength.
Broidy also cultivated another influential ally at CalPERS, then-state Controller Steve Westly, who also was on the CalPERS board. Broidy had met privately with Westly at least half a dozen times by October 2004, according to Westly’s desk calendar. One of those meetings was at Broidy’s office in Tel Aviv.
Broidy once hosted fundraisers for President Bush and other lavish parties in his Bel Air manse. Bush appointed him to the Kennedy Center’s board and U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council. He was a trustee of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension fund from 2002 until he resigned in May 2009.
He also has ties to San Diego, serving in the 1980s as a money manager for Glen Bell, the late Taco Bell founder and Rancho Santa Fe resident. That a relationship that ended acrimoniously, with Bell accusing Broidy in court papers of cheating him while he suffered from Parkinson’s disease.