WASHINGTON – After skipping out on appearances in his home district over the July 4 holiday weekend, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (search), R-Calif., did show up Tuesday for a long-planned speech to the Escondido Rotary Club, where he was greeted by local reporters asking about his political future.
Asked if he would resign after recent revelations about questionable personal financial dealings, Cunningham said he wasn't quitting Congress. But he did not directly answer questions about the controversies swirling around him.
Late last week, FBI and IRS agents raided Cunningham's $2.5 million mansion near San Diego. Cunningham's lawyers were furious.
"We believe this is an abuse of process, Duke looks forward to clearing his name and a fair investigation," said attorney Mark Holscher, who added that agents did not give any reason why they stormed into the lawmaker's home on Friday.
At the same time as the raid in California, agents in Washington searched for documents at the offices of defense contractor MZM Inc. (search)
The grand jury probe is said to be focused on the 2003 sale of Cunningham's former home to MZM President Mitchell Wade (search). Wade bought the property for $1.7 million dollars. As it turned out, that price was about $700,000 more than the house was worth. Wade also owned the 42-foot yacht that until recently Cunningham called his Washington home.
Cunningham is a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, but he denies he used his influence to help Wade and MZM Inc. win $104 million in top secret no-bid Defense Department contracts.
At the same time, Cunningham's for-profit Web site, where he had been selling items related to his past life as a Top Gun Navy pilot and instructor, is no longer operating. Last week, FOX News broadcast images of items for sale on the Web site, including a $595 buck knife engraved with Cunningham's likeness and the congressional seal. The Web site on Tuesday had a notice that it is not working while it is officially "under construction."
Before the site closed, FOX News attempted to buy one item from it using a credit card. A short time later, an e-mail was returned saying the site was "unable to fill your order for Top Gun VHS tape. Your payment will be refunded to you via money order." That money order arrived Tuesday.
Cunningham is expected to make at least two other public appearances in his home district this week. He has hired high-powered attorneys in both Washington and California and has over $600,000 in his campaign war chest that could be used as a legal defense fund.