Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the California Republican who faces federal investigations into his close relationship with a defense contractor, announced last night that he will step down at the end of his term.
“I want to assure my constituents that I have acted honorably,” he said.
At the heart of the investigations is the eight-term congressman’s dealings with Mitchell Wade, founder of Virginia-based defense contractor MZM Inc.
MZM has received $163 million in federal defense contracts, many of which were for classified projects. Mr. Cunningham, 63, sits on the House Appropriations Committee’s powerful defense subcommittee as well as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, both of which handle the types of contracts awarded to MZM.
It has been reported that Mr. Cunningham has resided free of charge on a 42-foot yacht owned by Mr. Wade. Moored in a Potomac River yacht club, the boat has been renamed the “Duke-Stir.”
Questions also have arisen about Mr. Wade’s 2003 purchase of Mr. Cunningham’s California home for more than $1.6 million. He then sold the property for $700,000 less.
Mr. Cunningham, a Vietnam veteran and decorated Navy fighter pilot, made the announcement at a press conference last night at the San Marcos campus of California State University, near San Diego.
The conservative congressman maintained that he is innocent of wrongdoing, but said the investigations do not foster a good climate for a campaign next year.
“I do not believe a political campaign in the midst of such allegations is in the best interest of my family or my constituents,” he said, standing beside his wife, Nancy.
Mr. Cunningham also said he would sell his current home — which he financed with the profit from the sale to Mr. Wade — and donate the proceeds to charity. He said he wants to “clear any suggestion” that he wrongfully benefited from the home sale to Mr. Wade.
In a statement last month, Mr. Cunningham said he showed poor judgment in selling his house to Mr. Wade, who, he said, was looking for a California headquarters for his company. But he also said he had done nothing wrong.
Mr. Cunningham also has said that he has paid $13,000 in berthing fees and maintenance costs for Mr. Wade’s yacht, which is where he stays when he is in Washington.
Last month, the federal government halted the awarding of contracts to MZM as part of a change in federal regulations requiring more competitive bidding. The change is not related to the investigation, and MZM will be allowed to bid for new projects, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency.
The federal probe into the relationship between Mr. Wade and Mr. Cunningham involves the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Internal Revenue Service, said Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for the FBI office in San Diego.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.