Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wade and Wilkes, Wilkes and Wade: One of 'em bilks, the other got made

The best of the bloggers has shamed the rest of us once again. Josh Marshall reveals the secret of that 2002 "furniture" deal Dick Cheney's office handed to MZM -- the deal that got corrupt businessman Mitchell Wade in the government contract biz.

Previously, I had speculated that the furniture was bugged. Others felt that Cheney used furniture as a ruse to hand Wade the money used to buy a boat for Congressman Randy "Duke" Cuningham.

Nope. According to Marshall, it was a ruse, all right -- but the contract went (ostensibly) to a service run by Wade to intercept and decontaminate any mail sent to the President or (presumably) other members of the cabinet and their staff. Remember the great Anthrax scare?

But here's where it gets really odd:
If you're a Cunningham case aficionado, you know that in early 2002 Mitchell Wade was still acting as a cut out for his corruption mentor Brent Wilkes -- who's now awaiting trial in the Cunningham case. And around the same time Wilkes was greasing palms in DC trying to get into the Anthrax mail screening racket himself.
At least I can still claim to be the first blogger to notice Wilkes' (alleged) grand venture into the field of mail decontamination:
MailSafe Inc. supposedly offers "mail decontamination, digital capture, and electronic distribution to government and commercial entities." But the web site has disappeared, and the company seems to have left zero imprint on corporate America. Where is the evidence that it actually provided any services to clients?
So far as anyone has ever determined, MailSafe was never anything more than web site and a mailing address. Wilkes' modus operandi was to grease congressional palms and get fat contracts. Actual work was for the plebians.

It's not hard to figure out how Wilkes hit upon the idea for Mailsafe. The only true service he had provided the government, as near as anyone can tell, amounted to the photocopying of some really old documents. (Which I would have done for ten bucks an hour. Can I be a defense contractor too?) Here, the service amounted to a proposal to have someone in a protective suit photocopy the President's mail.

Would Wilkes have actually sprung for the suit? I tend to doubt it.

Marshall's story should be read in conjunction with David Corn's, in which he outlines the runaround he got as he tried to track down the story.
According to federal procurement records, the contract was for "ADP systems development services" and "custom computer programming services."
Hm. So far, nothing here about either furniture or Anthrax screening...
I asked the Interior Department if I could obtain a copy of the MZM contract under the Freedom of Information Act. The answer: you can submit a FOIA request, but you won't get anything. "It's national security," an Interior official told me, reciting various exemptions. The release of this information, he said, was restricted not by the Interior Department but by the Executive Office of the President because it "includes techniques and procedures used by the Secret Service for law enforcement investigations" and because its disclosure "could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law." He added, "There is no way to get any details."
Now, that could be a reference to Wade's alleged mail screening service, or it might refer to something else. At any rate, I'm not sure how presidential security would have been compromised by a terse announcement that $140,000 went to "mail security." Or even just "security."

So here are my questions:

1. Why would a contract for mail screening for the President be handled by Dick Cheney? And if the deal wasn't handled by the Office of the Vice President, then why did the L.A. Times report that it was?

2. What qualified Mitchell Wade for this job?

Remember, MZM started life as a law firm. Later, it got into the business of refugee aid (!!), through something called the Sure Foundation. (As in: "Did money actually go to refugees? Surrrrrre.") They ran a Republican-friendly PAC out of the same office. In a February 2003 contract, MZM stated that it had zero employees and zero revenue -- this, after they had gotten the gig from Cheney and had set up shop in Charlottesville to do digital mapping for the Pentagon.

My guess: Between the years 1993-2002, MZM was an intelligence front, a spook house -- similar to Brewster Jennings of Plamegate fame, although perhaps not so benign. A better analogy might reference the front companies run by Edwin Wilson on the CIA's dime. Here's Wilson's trajectory in a nutshell (per Wikipedia):
His main role for the CIA was setting up fake companies that would be used to covertly ship supplies around the world. As director of these fake firms, which also conducted legitimate business, he amassed a great deal of money. After 15 years with the CIA, he moved to naval intelligence and brought his companies along with him. He retired in 1976 and went fully private, continuing to run the businesses he had built for the CIA, the largest of which was Consultants International. He amassed a fortune of the some 20 million dollars mainly in the arms trading business.
Perhaps someone in spook-land decided to Wade into the same waters. Perhaps he used the Wilson template to Make Zee Moolah.

Which brings us to...

3. Did MZM, or Wilkes, or anyone, actually provide the mail screening service?
In other words: When little Timmy in the second grade writes a letter to "Dear Mr. President," does Dubya get a whiff of the actual crayola, or does he merely see the xerox?

Wade and Wilkes, Wilkes and Wade:
One of 'em bilks, the other got made.
They rose quite high, but by a fluke
they crashed and fell, along with Duke.


Anonymous said...

You should be on Waxman's staff, Joseph.

Joseph Cannon said...

A Waxman aide? Oh, balderdash.
I'm just a wanna-be Ogden Nash.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that the Anthrax scare (which has never really been solved) provided the context for these crooks to rake in the dough?

Especially if the spooky ties you mention exist.

I mean sure, a few postal workers died, but hey, look at all this cash!

(sorry if this is a dupe comment -- I can't tell if it posted the first time)

Anonymous said...

speaking of anthrax:

I heard (and let me preface this by saying if you don't know me, my grapevine is occasionally spurious) that Robert Stephens had pics of the W and Victor Ashe doing the closested-republican skin dance (maybe that didn't come out right-- playing Guckert for hire?) anyway thats what i heard.... and i heard that's why he was sent an anthrax surprise

Anonymous said... what i was going to say was that maybe the cushy job of mail snorting that they might have been doing for Herr Cheney, might have been payback for a job well done....

Anonymous said...

What's curious is that Titan Corporation was also in the business of anthrax screening, but for the post office.

Anonymous said...

Look into a task order awarded by DHS HSHQPA05FR00206, on 01/14/2005 for $3,774,947.95 under the GSA schedule GS35F0486M for watch coverage and also XECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT order, WM24D026/DCA20002A5016, for $50,115 awarded on 06/16/2004 for
technical advisory services