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Originally published September 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 19, 2007 at 2:08 AM

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13 congressmen subpoenaed in bribery case

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and 12 House colleagues plan to fight subpoenas issued to them in the federal trial of a defense contractor accused...

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and 12 House colleagues plan to fight subpoenas issued to them in the federal trial of a defense contractor accused of bribing jailed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.

The subpoenas for the trial, due to start soon in San Diego, were issued to a bipartisan group of lawmakers by Mark Geragos, an attorney representing contractor Brent Wilkes.

An aide to Dicks said the House counsel said the lawmakers were unlikely to be required to testify and the subpoenas were "merely a shotgun, grandstanding legal tactic."

In a statement, Dicks said, "I have never met or spoken to Mr. Wilkes, nor have I had anything to do with any of his companies."

Stanley Brand, a former House counsel, predicted House members would not be forced to testify, citing the Constitution's "speech and debate" clause, which protects lawmakers while they are performing legislative duties.

He also said he suspected the subpoenas indicated that Wilkes' defense team would attempt to show that his activities were "just the way business was conducted" in Washington.

Wilkes pleaded not guilty to charges that he provided Cunningham with prostitutes, jet travel, limousine service, cash, meals and other items in return for the congressman's help in steering defense contracts his way. Wilkes' trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 2.

Others who received subpoenas are former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; California Republicans John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Jerry Weller, R-Ill.; Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas; Ike Skelton, D-Mo.; John Murtha, D-Pa.; Republicans Peter Hoekstra and Joe Knollenberg, of Michigan.

Wilkes' attorneys also are seeking documents from Hunter, Lewis, Reyes, Murtha and Skelton.

The House counsel's office sent Geragos a letter asking "what testimony you intend to seek from each member and why you think such testimony would be relevant to your case." Ultimately, the counsel is expected to seek to quash the subpoenas.

Geragos could not be reached for comment.

A number of the subpoenaed lawmakers received campaign donations or other favors from Wilkes as he sought to develop connections in Washington and grow his contracting business.

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Wilkes raised at least $100,000 for President Bush's 2004 re-election bid and provided flights on his private jet to lawmakers, including Blunt and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Cunningham is serving an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from various defense contractors.

Seattle Times reporter Alicia Mundy contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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