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Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty to Illegal Campaign Contributions

This news is just coming out: defense contractors Mitchell Wade, who bribed former Rep. (and current member of our Ethics Hall of Shame) Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), has just pleaded guilty to making at least $78,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Reps. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) and Virgil Goode (R-Va.), reports the Washington Post. To avoid contribution limits, Wade apparently gave checks to his employees and then had them cut checks to the representatives in the hopes of getting defense appropriations. After receiving the contributions, a Goode staffer reportedly confirmed to Wade that a defense appropriations bill would include $9 million for his company and Harris tried but failed to secure funding beneficial to Wade.

Prosecutors said there is no indication that Harris or Goode knew the contributions were illegal but said the investigation was ongoing and refused to say whether the representatives were targets.

Tellingly, a Harris spokeswoman said, "this case demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to determine the intent of a contributor." We couldn’t agree more — it’s time to change the political fundraising system. If you’d like to help Public Citizen clean up that system, we’ve got a national call in day on Tuesday when the Senate will be debating two potentially landmark ethics reform bills. Click here for more details or click here to become a Citizen Watchdog.

-Conor Kenny