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NYT: Contractor caught in bribery scandal claims lawmaker taught him how to 'grease palms'

Published: Saturday August 5, 2006

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A defense contractor implicated in a bribery scandal claims his hometown congressman taught him how to "grease palms," according to an article slated for Sunday's edition of The New York Times.

"In 1992, Brent R. Wilkes rented a suite at the Hyatt Hotel a few blocks from the Capitol," write David Johnston and David D. Kirkpatrick for The Times. "In his briefcase was a stack of envelopes for a half-dozen congressmen, each packet containing up to $20,000 in checks."

"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," the article continues. "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," The Times reports. "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."

Excerpts from the Times article:


Last November, Mr. Wilkes was described as “co-conspirator No. 1” in a plea agreement signed by Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. In the plea deal, Mr. Cunningham admitted accepting more than $2.4 million in cash and gifts from Mr. Wilkes and other contractors. A former Wilkes associate, Mitchell J. Wade, pleaded guilty to paying some of the bribes.


Speaking publicly for the first time since Mr. Cunningham’s plea agreement, Mr. Wilkes said in recent interviews that he had done nothing wrong and did not believe that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Lowery had broken the law. Mr. Wilkes, who has not been charged in the Cunningham case, has refused prosecutors’ appeals to plead guilty.

But Mr. Wilkes acknowledged that he was a willing participant in what he characterized as a “cutthroat” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite for federal contracts. “I attempted to get help and advice from people who could show me the way to do it right,” Mr. Wilkes said. “I played by their rules, and I played to win.”