As it turns out, one of the chief bribers involved in the Duke Cunningham mess is none other than Brent Wilkes, erstwhile airlines executive (and I mean that in the snidest of ways). Seems Mr. Wilkes owned a 1/16th share of a private jet that he used to ferry Duke, Tommy Boy DeLay, Roy Blunt and other pols around the country.
Of course, every flight was *cough* legitimately paid for according to the parties involved and there was no *cough* quid pro quo expected. Hence the multi-count guilty plea from Mr. Cunningham, I'm sure.
Just who is Mr. Wilkes, you ask? Well...
Since launching ADCS in the late 1990s, Wilkes has built relationships with key legislators on Capitol Hill. He and his close family members and business associates have donated more than $600,000 to congressional campaigns, mostly targeted at members of the Senate and House appropriations and armed services committees, which oversee the Pentagon budget.But no quid pro quo expected whatsoever for contracts or otherwise. Just some favors among...erm...hunting buddies. Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.
In addition, Wilkes has spent $440,000 on lobbying activities, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that monitors government ethics issues. He also has repeatedly provided the use of his corporate jet to Cunningham and DeLay.
Nothing like making a corporate jet available so the pols can travel like fat cats...because you don't expect that to ever pay off in favors, now do you? You want to know how the palm greasing gets its start? Here it is.
And its one of the main reasons that Republican strategists started putting feelers out earlier in the week to push a non-Abramoff-connected House member into the Majority Leader race. Ed Rogers was going on and on about a potential dark horse getting into the race on January 10th's Hardball, and the name I heard batted about at that time was John Shadegg (R-AZ). Seems Shadegg entered the race on Friday, and Blunt is hitting back with a swift claim to the throne, according to The Hill today.
Secret ballot votes will be cast on Feb. 2 by the House Republican caucus. Guess we'll see whether Graft Air is still flying high.
(Hat tip to Josh at TPM.)