WASHINGTON – A limousine company involved in congressional prostitution and bribery allegations got a Homeland Security contract after then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham interceded on the company's behalf, the company's president has told lawmakers.
The statement by the president of Shirlington Limousine was made in an affidavit discussed at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Thursday.
It prompted renewed protests from lawmakers about the Homeland Security Department's awarding of two contracts to Shirlington despite the company's history of problems.
Committee Chairman Pete King, R-N.Y., noted that Shirlington president Christopher Baker had a criminal record and business dealings with a defense contractor named as an unindicted coconspirator in the prosecution of Cunningham.
"And then we find out that the congressman at the center of all of this sends a letter on behalf of this limousine company. If that doesn't raise issues, if that isn't more than a series of coincidences, I don't know what is," King lectured government witnesses.
Cunningham is serving more than eight years in prison after admitting accepting $2.4 million in bribes from the defense contractor and others. Federal officials are investigating whether the contractor also supplied the California Republican lawmaker with prostitutes and limousines from Baker's company. Baker did not testify Thursday because a federal grand jury investigation is still underway.
DHS Chief Procurement Officer Elaine Duke said department officials turned up no evidence they actually received a letter from Cunningham except for a reference to it in an e-mail from the limousine company.
She said Shirlington got the two contracts through normal procedures — including one last October for up to $21 million over five years to transport department employees around the Washington, D.C. area.
No background check was performed on Baker because the department doesn't perform such checks on company owners, and contracting officers did not learn of Shirlington's problems with other contracts, including one terminated by Howard University over poor service, Duke said.
"I have no evidence that there was any type of outside influence," Duke said.
"If there's a reference to a letter, (Cunningham) is involved and DHS has not been truthful," King said.
Outside the hearing, King questioned the department's failure to find Cunningham's letter. "Did somebody clean out the file?" he asked.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said that never happened.
Attorneys for Cunningham and Baker did not immediately return calls for comment.