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Official's Office Is Subpoenaed -- but Not for 2003 Home Sale

Rep. Cunningham's staff says the notice pertains to a civil suit. The San Diego congressman is being probed over sale to a defense executive.

June 21, 2005|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) caused a stir Monday by having the clerk of the House of Representatives announce -- without details -- that his office has been subpoenaed.

Besieged by media calls, Cunningham's office later said the subpoena involved an Imperial County resident who had sought the congressman's help in dealing with a federal agency. It had nothing to do with the federal investigation into the sale of Cunningham's San Diego home to a defense industry executive.

At issue in the federal probe is the November 2003 sale of Cunningham's home in the Del Mar Heights neighborhood to Mitchell J. Wade, president and chief executive of MZM Inc., for $1,675,000. A month later, Wade put the house on the market, where it remained for seven months before he sold it for $975,000.

Profit from the sale to Wade allowed Cunningham and his wife, Nancy, to buy a larger home in Rancho Santa Fe for $2.55 million.

Federal authorities are trying to determine whether the sale was an effort by Wade to repay Cunningham for his support in gaining federal contracts.

Wade's company received about $40 million in contracts in 2003.

Cunningham was not accessible to reporters on Monday.

Officials at Imperial County Superior Court said the subpoena was part of a civil lawsuit against the county by a man who alleged he was roughed up by Bureau of Land Management rangers in Glamis, a popular spot with dune-buggy enthusiasts.

The man's father -- like Cunningham, a former Navy aviator -- asked for help from the congressman, who asked the bureau about the incident. Now the case has become a civil lawsuit, and the county is seeking correspondence between the bureau and Cunningham's office.

House members are required to announce when their offices receive subpoenas. When Cunningham's announcement did not specify the nature of the subpoena, reporters assumed it was related to the home sale.

The buzz is an indication of how intense the scrutiny of Cunningham has become.

In his northern San Diego County district, critics of the home sale are writing letters to local newspapers and picketing at Cunningham's new home.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a national political watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request Monday with the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to see what contacts Cunningham might have made on behalf of MZM.

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