DHS Finds Missing Cunningham Letter

By Erica Werner
Associated Press
Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security produced a letter yesterday from former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recommending a limousine company for federal contracts -- a day after saying it did not have such a letter.

The latest twist in the tale of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc. -- which is part of a federal investigation into whether a defense contractor provided the California Republican with prostitutes and limos -- prompted ridicule and disbelief from lawmakers.

A department spokesman said the letter was discovered in a folder by an administrative assistant who had read news reports yesterday morning about its disappearance.

"She says, 'Oh, I get those kinds of letters all the time -- I just throw them in a folder,' " said DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie. "So she starts looking through the folders and finds this letter."

A Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Thursday looked into why Shirlington received two Homeland Security contracts worth about $25 million despite a history of problems.

The letter, dated Jan. 16, 2004, is a character reference by Cunningham, who is now serving a prison term for bribery, on behalf of Shirlington President Christopher D. Baker, whose rap sheet included prosecutions for petty larceny and robbery.

"I have personally known Mr. Baker since the mid-1990s. He is completely dedicated to his work and has been of service to me and other members of Congress over the years," Cunningham wrote.

"Mr. Baker's transportation-oriented business was able to withstand the devastating impact of 9/11, while operating from Hangar 7 at Ronald Reagan International Airport. Please be advised of my full support of his wish to provide transportation services for the Department of Homeland Security."

Four months later, Shirlington got its first DHS contract, for $4 million.

Orluskie said Cunningham's intervention had nothing to do with the awarding of the contract. His letter was found in a folder labeled "Motor Pool" in the administrative department and apparently never made it to the procurement division, Orluskie said, which is why searches for it were unsuccessful.

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