Mitchell Wade, who was enriched through his dealings with Randy "Duke" Cunningham, has entered a plea detailing his bribery of numerous members of Congress. The Hotline's Marc Ambinder sifts through the document and writes the following.
The defense contractor who bribed ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) says he directed $80K in illegal campaign contributions to two members of Congress. In exchange for the campaign cash, a staffer for one of the members inserted a $9M provision that benefited MZM into an approps bill.
Who might those members be?
Well, a San Diego Union-Tribune story from '05 suggests that Wade's employees were pressured to donate money to the campaigns of Cunningham, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) and Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA).
It has been known for some time that Wade directed a significant amount of campaign contributions to Harris and Goode, but this is, to my knowledge, the first time that wrongdoing related to these donations has been specifically reported.
Harris, who seems to have already lost her challenge to Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, probably cannot sink any lower as a result of these allegations, but Goode, who has not received under 60 percent of the vote in any of his House elections, has much to lose.
Virginia's fifth congressional district is Republican, but not overwhelmingly so, with President Bush garnering a respectable 56 percent of the vote in 2004. Historically, however, VA-05 has been a Democratic district. When Goode was first elected in 1996, he was a conservative Democrat vying to succeed another conservative Democrat, L. F. Payne. In fact, the last time the fifth district supported a Republican before Goode's first run under the GOP banner in 2002 was in 1886, and before that, during Reconstruction. In this respect, the district is similar to Louisiana's third congressional district, which prior to Billy Tauzin's defection to the GOP following the 1994 midterms elected but one other Republican since the 1880s and which, despite the fact that George W. Bush carried the district with 58 percent of the vote in 2004, sent Charlie Melancon, a conservative Democrat, to Congress in December of 2004.
Will it be easy to beat Goode this year? Unquestionably, no. But Virginia is decidedly more Democratic-friendly than it has been in recent years, with Democratic successes across the state and up and down the ticket during the 2005 elections. What's more, even the whiff of corruption could spell trouble for Goode, especially given the public's hightened cognizance of ethics problems this cycle. And the Democrats are poised to make good use of Goode's woes, having set up a web page solely dedicated to questions about his improprieties. Both Democrats running in the race -- Al Weed and Bern Ewert -- will certainly try to make political hay out of Goode's problems, so who knows? Perhaps in a year with a nice Democratic gust, Virginia's fifth congressional district could come back to the Democratic fold.