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Crooked congressman in the can


Published: Sun, March 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Randall "Duke" Cunningham got off easy.
The crooked California congressman was sentenced to only a few months more in prison than our own former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who stole less and did so far less brazenly.
Traficant was, of course, his own worst enemy. He rejected plea bargains, provided himself with ineffective counsel and treated the courtroom as if it were a stage. He forced his fellow congressmen to throw him out, rather than resign.
Cunningham pleaded guilty, resigned from Congress and threw himself tearfully on the mercy of the court. He managed to get about a year and a half knocked off the maximum 10-year sentence.
Military ties
Ironically, Cunningham got a break because of his military service. He was a legendary Naval fighter pilot in Vietnam. But his corrupt acts as a congressman victimized the military In exchange for a couple of million in bribes from contractors, he pushed the purchases of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment that the military did not ask for, did not need and did not use.
That he was blinded to the fact that every dollar he was involved in misappropriating was a dollar that would not go to make life better and safer for today's soldier is a sad commentary on the depth of his greed and depravity.
In the end, Cunningham may well serve less time in prison than Traficant. His belated acknowledgment of wrong doing and his demeanor in court suggests that he will be a model prisoner. That will earn him time off for good behavior.
Traficant on the other hand, continues to behave in such a way that he loses whatever time off his sentence that he might have been able to earn.
In the meantime, the government is investigating others with direct and even indirect links to Cunningham. Anyone involved in diverting money from the defense of the country to their own pockets deserves to join Duke behind bars.


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