WASHINGTON, DC – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the House ethics committee today to investigate San Diego Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-CA) sale of his house to a defense contractor who had pending legislation before the House defense appropriations subcommittee, of which Cunningham is an influential member.
Cunningham sold his Del Mar house for $1,675,000 in November 2003 to Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor. Wade put the Del Mar house back on the market shortly after buying it, where it remained unsold and vacant for more than eight months. It eventually sold for $700,000 less than what Wade had paid Cunningham.
Cunningham sold his house through a realtor, Elizabeth Todd, who he said had set a fair and independent price. However, Todd and two family members have made 18 separate contributions totaling $11,500 to Cunningham's congressional campaign committee since 1997, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.
According to Copley News Service, records state that Cunningham sold the house to 1523 New Hampshire Avenue LLC. Nevada state business records show that Wade owns that company. It is the address of his Washington, D.C., office.
Several news reports reveal that Cunningham was supporting Wade and his firm MZM Inc. in efforts to win Pentagon contracts. Around the same time Cunningham’s house was sold to Wade, the defense contractor, whose business was suffering through a flat period, and was awarded tens of millions of dollars in defense and intelligence-related contracts.
“The fact that Congressman Cunningham’s house sold at a substantial loss at a time when real estate prices were soaring strongly suggests that the house was sold well beyond its value,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today. “The fact that it was sold at such a price to someone with business before Cunningham’s committee makes the deal all the more suspicious.”
“This is just the kind of situation that the ethics committee was intended to investigate. The committee’s failure to immediately take up this matter would be a dereliction of their responsibilities and yet another sign that Chairman Hastings is not serious about ethics.”