A DIRTY DOZEN Cunningham, Wilkes (inset) What's the punishment for perpetrating the biggest bribery scheme in congressional history? A dozen years in the slammer, if you please. Defense contractor Brent Wilkes got the 12-year slap-down late yesterday for plying ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with an estimated $700,000 in cash, hookers and, of course, machine gun lessons. As great as all that sounds for Cunningham, it was an even better deal for Wilkes, who scored about $90 million worth of defense contracts in return.
In terms of the corruption-buying market, Cunningham was far cheaper than Saudi Prince Bandar, who has allegedly hornswoggled billions orchestrating shady arms deals, but was a shade pricier than ex-Rep. Bob Ney, who sold his soul to Jack Abramoff for a golf trip to Scotland and a few other cheap thrills that cannot be used to feed his family now that he's in jail. We'll put our faith in Barack Obama and those upstarts in the Democratic Congress to make these Washington horror stories a thing of the past. And then when their scumbags get caught doing similar things, we'll totally buy Republican assurances that they're the clean ones. It's just easier for us that way.