Brent Wilkes, accused of bribing former Rep. Duke Cunningham, has been pretty quiet lately, but he opened up to the New York Times. It's a must-read story.
Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.
Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.
That was the beginning of a career built on what Mr. Wilkes calls "transactional lobbying," which made him a rich man but also landed him in the middle of a criminal investigation.
Right, "transactional lobbying." Silly me, I thought it was called "bribery."
Wilkes described a twisted system in which the appropriations process has become little more than a shakedown: "Lowery would always say, 'It is a two-part deal,' " he recalled. " 'Jerry will make the request. Jerry will carry the vote. Jerry will have plenty of time for this. If you don't want to make the contributions, chair the fund-raising event, you will get left behind.' "
As Digby put it, "And yet the country has yet to be convinced that the Republicans are far more likely to steal their tax money and use it to enrich themselves than Democrats. The facts are the facts, but years of 'tax and spend liberal' cant has been so internalized that even when the graft and corruption is right in plain sight, people won't believe it."
--Guest Post by Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report