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Dirty money Following last week's guilty plea of Randy Cunningham, the tentacles of "Duke-Stir-gate" are spreading rapidly into local Republican money circles. Topping the list of reported coconspirators is Brent R. Wilkes, the Poway defense contractor and board member of the San Diego International Sports Council who made millions of dollars on government deals pushed by Cunningham. He's widely said to be "Co-conspirator No. 1," described by prosecutors in last week's Cunningham plea agreement. Wilkes, who founded ADCS, a document-conversion outfit, has long been a dependable mother lode for GOP campaigns here, including those of county supervisor Ron Roberts and former congressmen Ron Packard and Brian Bilbray, who is now running for the seat Cunningham is vacating. Wilkes also gave to Democrats, including Senators Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and Charles Robb of Virginia. The money for Roberts came in his 2000 race against Dick Murphy, when Wilkes and his employees, vendors, and relatives teamed up to pump at least $9750 into the Roberts cause. "I provided money to the campaign because I like Roberts's policies. I like his honesty," said Mark Adams, a Wilkes employee residing in Alexandria, Virginia.

Other ADCS workers hung up the phone when asked about their donations to Roberts, who has a history of receiving illegally reimbursed campaign contributions. (He's repeatedly denied knowing that the funds were laundered.) Contributors willing to speak also denied any wrongdoing. Richard Creighton, a Costa Mesa resident, explained his connection to ADCS and his campaign gift to Roberts: "I got something in the mail to come to a fund-raiser. I'm not really that politically savvy. I know nothing about San Diego politics. All I know is, ADCS is a customer of ours. They sell computer products to the government. Our company makes computer products. They use our products to satisfy their bid."

A year later, Wilkes and friends gave $2500 to the failed city council effort of Roberts aide Steve Danon, who was running against Donna Frye. Another example of largess came in June 2003, when now-indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay got $15,000 from PerfectWave Technologies, another Wilkes venture. DeLay used the money to help bankroll Congressional redistricting in Texas. Even as late as the first half of this year, the ADCS political action committee was anteing up big-time, giving a total of $21,000, including $5000 to Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, $5000 to Future Leaders PAC, $5000 to Superior California Federal Leadership Fund, $3000 to the American Dream PAC, and $2000 to Milead Fund. Contributions to the ADCS committee came via employee "payroll withholding," according to the filing.

Ironically, Wilkes, whose house was searched by the FBI last summer, received one of 11 "Monty" awards handed out earlier this year by San Diego State University, from which he graduated with a business degree in 1977. "The Monty award is a symbol of achievement and success presented to distinguished alumni," said an SDSU news release. "Wilkes is a board member of numerous community and philanthropic groups, including The Campanile Foundation at SDSU." Campanile, presided over by SDSU president Stephen Weber, was set up by him in 1999 to collect and manage large cash and real estate gifts for university use. The Alvarado Estates mansion where Weber lives was purchased by Campanile board member Malin Burnham and donated to the state in September 2000.

Criminal education As the Duke Cunningham saga continued to unfold last week, one usually outspoken media voice remained uncharacteristically silent. Union-Tribune editorialist Bob Kittle, a regular participant on the KPBS Editors Roundtable, was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that before the scandal broke, Cunningham's wife Nancy, a former teacher in the Encinitas Union School District and a former assistant secretary for management and chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Education, had been in line to become the director of the Rhoades School, owned by Kittle and his wife Luanne. The tony private school has 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, many from wealthy Rancho Santa Fe, where Cunningham purchased a $2.5 million dream house. The Kittles announced in April that Cunningham would take over the school September 1, but she pulled out in June after it became known that a federal grand jury was looking into her husband's dealings. Instead, she remained as "administrator of support services" for the Encinitas Union School District, where she has worked for 30 years. ... Before ex-San Diego city councilman Ralph Inzunza was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role in the strip-club influence-peddling scandal, friends wrote to the judge begging for leniency. Two of them were former members of the San Diego Unified school board, Ron Ottinger and Ed Lopez, key allies of then-superintendent Alan Bersin. In downplaying Inzunza's crimes, Ottinger took a shot at another local crook: "Former Port Commissioner David Malcolm was sentenced to only 120 days at a work furlough program for bilking taxpayers of millions of dollars in the Duke Energy scandal, which caused harm to every Californian."

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