Head of House Intel Panel Levels Partisan Politics Charge

The head of the House Intelligence panel publicly scolded his Democratic co-chair Tuesday, accusing her of playing partisan politics in the release of a declassified summary of a report detailing how convicted ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham exploited his position on the committee to win millions for contractors who then kicked back cash to him.

Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said California Rep. Jane Harman, the panel's top Democrat, overstepped her bounds by putting out the key findings of an internal committee report.

"Today the committee's ranking member, Jane Harman, unilaterally and without the consent and authority of the full committee, released an interim, internal report by the committee's independent counsel into the actions of former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham," Hoekstra said.

"Harman's blatant disregard for the bipartisan agreement ... underscores her personal decision to politicize the committee and this critical inquiry," he added

Hoekstra said the Cunningham case is incomplete and still in the preparatory stages, and the fact she released an internal committee document that has not been reviewed by the other committee members "is disturbing and beyond the pale."

The report released Tuesday is a five-page executive summary to a 23-page abbreviated version of a 59-page document produced by independent counsel Michael Stern in May. The shorter version was received by the panel in July.

Click here to read the summary.

The report finds that Cunningham secured the cooperation — or at least the noninterference — of many people, including congressional members who handled bills governing contract spending, Pentagon officials who awarded contracts, and officials at agencies where the contracting work was done.

"This was a lot of people to persuade, cajole, deceive, pressure, intimidate, bribe or otherwise influence to do what they wanted," the executive summary says of Cunningham's efforts.

It adds that Cunningham's actions sent up red flags to committee staff, but staff continued to "accept and support" his requests. Cunningham also "pressured and otherwise influenced" Department of Defense officials to "award and execute contracts and take other action" to benefit Cunningham's co-conspirators.

Cunningham, now in jail, pleaded guilty in November to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes from his co-conspirators — government contractors Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes. Hoekstra said Cunningham had already agreed to cooperate with the panel, and releasing the report precipitously did not help force the issue.

Harman said the report shows that the "committee must examine why 'red flags' did not trigger greater scrutiny of Cunningham's activities, and what can be done to prevent this type of abuse in the future."

Hoekstra noted that Cunningham's actions were "reprehensible," but the investigation found "no instances of wrongdoing on the part of other committee Members or the committee's staff."

Harman also said that Hoekstra agreed with her earlier this month that it would be appropriate to release "a mutually agreeable version" of the summary. The California Democrat said Hoekstra instructed Stern to submit such a summary, which he did last Friday, and Hoekstra agreed to work jointly with Harman "to facilitate its release as soon as possible."

Harman said she and Hoekstra have disagreed over the last several months about whether to subpoena Cunningham, which Harman argues would "increase the likelihood" that Cunningham would cooperate with the investigation into his actions.

"Given the extent of the damage he caused the taxpayers and our committee, sparing Cunningham the embarrassment of having to assert his Fifth Amendment rights is not a goal our minority members and I share. I also think it is totally inappropriate for the chairman to be in contact with Cunningham, which he has been," Harman said.

"Cunningham has reached out to the committee and offered his testimony, a possibility the independent counsel is still reviewing," Hoekstra said, adding that he "will not issue a subpoena solely for the theatrics of having Cunningham appear and take the Fifth."

In the summary, Stern says a request has been made to interview Cunningham, but investigators have not been able to do so yet.