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Reader CH asked: “How do we know that Duke is the most corrupt congress member?”

Thanks for all your responses. This is a question I get asked quite a bit.

First off, Cunningham admitted accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes. In fact, it was quite a bit more. As I say in my book, the $2.4 million was a compromise number reached by prosecutors and Cunningham’s attorneys because at $2.5 million there were additional penalties that could have applied under federal sentencing guidelines. The $2.4 million figure does not take into account the $700,000 that Mitchell Wade overpaid for Cunningham’s Del Mar house, and it puts a figure of $10,000 on Cunningham’s travel, which is a lowball number since Wade paid $12,000 for one trip alone. When you add these and other things into the mix, it seems like a figure well in excess of $3 million is a better estimate for Cunningham’s bribes.

Even taking the $2.4 million figure, Cunningham still comes in at the head of a corrupt pack. The truth is that congressmen (no congresswoman has ever been convicted of corruption) can be had for very little. In Abscam, several congressmen were convicted and sent to prison for taking between $25,000 and $50,000 from undercover FBI agents posing as Arab businessmen. Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced to prison last year for taking $170,000 in gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., is alleged to have received $400,000 in bribes.

I consulted with several historians and did a bit of research on my own to be sure I was on solid ground. The scale of Cunningham’s graft exceeds anything in history. There wasn’t time to include this in the book, but I have posted a list of every known case of congressional corruption on my Website, which you can check out here.

SETH HETTENA

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