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— Foster said that after the mid-1990s, he never had contact with Baker or Wilkes again, and he never attended any of the Watergate poker parties that Wilkes and his associates participated in with Cunningham and other congressmen. He stressed that he had no knowledge of prostitutes being employed there.

"I don't have any knowledge of that. Never participated in any of it, knew anything about it. Zero. Chris was not, during the time that I knew him and was going to D.C., I didn't know of any of those things, okay?" he said. "There was nothing like that going on -- not to my knowledge, anyway.

"I knew that [Baker] had some scuffs with the law. He shared that with me, yeah. I knew that he had been in trouble. It's one of the reasons I admired him. He was pulling himself up by his bootstraps. He was trying to do something legit, he was trying to get a company going, stay out of trouble, whatever. I didn't even know what the felony was. I didn't even know it was a felony. I knew he had some problems with the law.

"I really admired him for having two cars and trying to make something out of his life. What his relationship evolved into with Brent, I don't know what it evolved into. I wasn't around."

Foster added that he had virtually no dealings with Cunningham. "The first time I met Cunningham -- I think I was at a Pete Wilson function -- and he came up with a piece of paper. He scribbled that he was running for Congress.... That was the extent of the relationship."

By 1997, Pentech had been transformed into Pentech Energy Solutions. "We came up with a product," Foster explained. "We decided to tear the company down to the original founder and maybe one or two other people, and we developed a product called PERC. And from there we got venture capitalist funding, and we decided to take the project to another level."

In August 1998, according to federal lobbyist registration filings, Pentech Energy Solutions retained the services of Copeland, Lowery, and Jacquez, the Washington lobbying and governmental relations firm. Lobbyist Bill Lowery, the former San Diego city councilman and ex-GOP congressman, worked for Wilkes and is now said to be under investigation in connection with his lobbying of former GOP house colleague Jerry Lewis. The filing says that Pentech hired Copeland, Lowery to perform "marketing to government [an] energy efficiency device for home/business heating and cooling systems" and was paid $10,000.

The same year, Foster began contributing to congressional candidates, including then-GOP congressman Brian Bilbray, to whom he gave $500 the same month that he retained Lowery. In April 1999, he gave $1000 to Congressman Jerry Lewis.

Foster recalled his relationship with Lowery. "I didn't know him personally. I would never say that Lowery and I were friends or anything like that," said Foster. "We gained a mutual respect for each other during some of his campaigns for Congress.

"The reason I used his firm is, I was at an event and bumped into Bill," he recalled. "I talked with him and he said to give him a call. And so I called his office, and he passed me on to some people. I think I did business with him about two or three months at the most, if it lasted that long. We couldn't afford it."

According to Foster, Lowery was supposed to perform much of the same service that Wilkes had offered. "They introduced us to the different agencies. They focused on environmental agencies," he said. "So we had exactly maybe two or three meetings with him, and that's about it. We didn't have a lot of resources to pursue that effort at the time.

"The reality is, especially in San Diego, when you're a black guy, and especially a few years ago, and you run around in those circles, you're a small player. You're not a major player," he said. "People treat you nice, it's good to see some black faces around. You're not in the 'in' crowds. You don't get invited to those things. It was, like, 'Hi, Jerry, glad to see you.' Pat on the back."

Foster added that in addition to his race, the relatively small size of the campaign contributions he was able to afford also kept him out of Washington's big leagues. "You're not a major player with $500 checks, you know that. And being black, you're never in the in crowd. The only thing, you really get used, with a face in a crowd. If somebody thinks you have an advantage, give them a contract or something like that, they'll put their arms around you."

Foster said he departed Pentech before it was sold in 2002 and does not know anything about its ultimate fate. "I started that company in 1989 and kept it going until 2000. I did a few things right. And a lot of dumb things," he said, adding, "There were times we made money and there were times we lost money, but I think we did okay. We had some $20 million in revenue at one time."

He said he left Pentech as a result of a nasty divorce battle. "I asked to step down. I was going through a divorce. I had carried that company on my back since 1989," he remembered. "I didn't think I was the best person, given the fact that I was stressed out, suffering from depression. I wasn't aware of it at the time. I decided that it wasn't the best fit.

"First time I asked to step down I was told no. But they didn't know I was going through a divorce. When I told them I was divorcing they were okay with it. So I stepped down as CEO and became president." Three months later, Foster said, he left altogether and subsequently suffered a long period of emotional hardship brought on by bitter court battles with several ex-wives.

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