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The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Congressman
Rep. Randy Cunningham
made headlines when he resigned after he was caught accepting bribes from a military contractor
The official congressional biography of Randy "Duke" Cunningham identifies his religious affiliation simply as "Christian Church." Using this phrase in answer to the question about denominational affiliation is something only done, as far as we have observed, by adherents of churches and religious bodies associated with the Stone-Campbell "Restoration Movement." This self-identification as a member of the "Cristian Church" almost certainly means that Randy Cunningham is a member of the Stone-Campbell religious body known as the "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ" (CC/CC). This is the "moderate" or "middle" of the three major Stone-Campbell religious bodies. Congressmen who are members of the "liberal" wing -- the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- nearly always identify themselves as "Discipes of Christ." Members of the "conservative" wing - the Churches of Christ -- nearly always specify "Church of Christ" or "church of Christ" (lowercase) when identifying their religious affiliation.
Rep. Randy Cunningham is pictured here with controversial televangelist Paul Crouch, chairman and president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, or TBN, the world's largest Christian television network.
The religious body known as the "Chrisitan Churches and Churches of Christ" has always had a strong "anti-denominational" sentiment. One manifestation of this is the practice of its members of identifying their religious affiliation only as "Christian" or "Christian Church." Members of this group rarely identify themselves as "Stone-Campbellites," a term that historians regularly use for them.
After Rep. Randy Cunningham resigned in the wake of the bribery scandal that disgraced him, it would be easy to wonder if the congressman's identification of himself as a "Christian," was merely a politically expedient euphemism. One can easily make the point that Rep. Randy Cunningham was not a very good Christian and was ultimately an entirely untrustworthy politician. Indeed, Rep. Cunningham made these points himself in the statement he released when he resigned from the House of Representatives. However, regardless of what one thinks of Rep. Cunningham's politics and his illegal actions, it seems clear from his career and actions that he was a committed Christian and was sincere in his desire to support the interests of Christians and promote his concept of Christian values.
Rep. Cunningham was often criticized precisely because he promoted his concept of Christian values and Christian interests as a congressman, at the expense (in the opinion of critics) of the interests of "non-Christians." It seems in those instances, Rep. Cunningham was indeed representing his constituents - voters who repeatedly re-elected him. Had the San Diego-area voters preferred a Representative who was less zealous in his promotion of religious freedom and Christian interests, they could have voted for someone else.
The data entered by members of Congress into their official Congressional biographies are used by numerous sources. Below is just one of many such sources which, based on that information, identifies Rep. Cunningham's religious affiliation as "Christian Church." From: "Representative Randy Cunningham" page in "Find Your Legislators" section of "Alliance to Save Energy" website (http://energyaction.ase.org/legdirectory/Index.asp?id=1160&step=8; viewed 28 November 2005):
Representative Randy Cunningham (R-CA) 50th District
Year First Elected: 1990
Re-election Year: 2004
Recent Occupations: Education, teacher
Date Of Birth: 1941
Marital Status: Married
Spouse Name: Nancy Jones
Family: 3 children
Religion: Christian Church
Other websites with identical information include:
- Citizen Action - http://action.njcitizenaction.org/legdirectory/Index.asp?id=1160&step=8
- World Wildlife Fund - http://takeaction.worldwildlife.org/legdirectory/Index.asp?id=1160&step=8
- Amnesty International USA - http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/legdirectory/Index.asp?id=1160&step=8
- The Fund for Animals - http://action.fund.org/directory/index.asp?id=1160&step=8
- Natural Resources Defense Council - http://www.nrdcaction.org/legdirectory/Index.asp?id=1160&step=8
- Plus at least a dozen more.
One should keep in mind that these websites were generated apparently by the same software or template, using the same data set, and that each site has pages for all current U.S. Representatives and Senators. The nature of these websites is in no way a reflection on Rep. Cunningham.
From: Randy Cunningham, "Statement by Randy 'Duke' Cunningham" (press release), published in San Diego Union-Tribune, published 28 November 2005 (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/politics/cunningham/images/051128cunningham_resign.pdf; viewed 29 November 2005):
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
For Immediate Release
Monday, November 28, 2005
Statement by Randy "Duke" Cunningham
I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I've compromised the trust of my constituents.
When I announced several months ago that I would no seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocense because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public -- even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.
The truth is -- I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.
Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.
In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am not almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.
The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God's grace, I will soon take the second.
From: "Biography" page on official website of Rep. Randy Cunningham (http://cunningham.house.gov/Biography/; viewed 28 November 2005):
Randy "Duke" Cunningham was born December 8, 1941, in Los Angeles, California. After earning his bachelors degree in 1964 and his masters in education in 1965 from the University of Missouri, Cunningham began his career as an educator and a coach at Hinsdale (Ill.) High School. As a swimming coach, Duke trained two athletes to Olympic gold and silver medals. He later expanded his education experience as the Dean of the School of Aviation at National University in San Diego.
In 1966, at the age of 25, Cunningham joined the U.S. Navy and became one of the most highly decorated pilots in the Vietnam War. As the first fighter ace of the war, Cunningham was nominated for the Medal of Honor, received the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, fifteen Air Medals, the Purple Heart, and several other decorations.
Duke's experience in Vietnam and his background as an educator prepared him well to train fighter pilots at the Navy Fighter Weapons School -- the famed "Top Gun" program at Miramar Naval Air Station. As Commanding Officer of the elite Navy Adversary Squadron, Cunningham flew Russian tactics and formations against America's best combat fighter pilots. Many of his real-life experiences as a Navy aviator and fighter pilot instructor were depicted in the popular movie "Top Gun."
Upon his retirement from the Navy in 1987, Cunningham translated the Masters in Business Administration he earned at National University into a successful business in San Diego.
In 2004, the people of California's 50th Congressional District elected Duke Cunningham to his eighth term in the House of Representatives. As the voters returned a Republican majority to both chambers of Congress, Congressman Cunningham retained his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Cunningham serves on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee, which is instrumental in providing key funding for education and medical research, two of his priorities. He also serves on the panel's Defense subcommittee, which provides funding for our national defense and armed services. At the beginning of the 109th Congress, Cunningham was selected to serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Cunningham was first named to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Speaker Hastert in the 107th Congress. His extensive military experience, continued service on defense and intelligence committees, and recognition as a congressional leader on national security issues make him an ideal fit for this prestigous position.
Through his committee assignments and the pursuit of his legislative priorities, Congressman Cunningham continues to work for a stronger economy; quality education for our children, a strong and efficient national defense; and smart investment in medical research and innovation. He places a priority on the effective use of taxpayer resources for our children's future.
Several organizations have honored Congressman Cunningham for his work in Congress. Most notably, he has been recognized for his work as a fiscal conservative by such organizations as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Taxpayer's Union, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He has also been recognized by education groups for his tireless advocacy and by several law enforcement organizations for his tough-on-crime position.
From: Dan Walters, "Cunningham breaks the mold by admitting to corruption" in Sacramento Bee, 28 November 2005 (http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=WALTERS-11-28-05; viewed 29 November 2005):
There are many ways to differentiate among politicians - smart or stupid, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, effective or ineffective, honest or corrupt.
Over time, however, one of the surer guides to political character has been whether a politician, regardless of other attributes, derives his sense of personal identity from his career, or whether he was grounded in non-political life before seeking office.
The former (Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton) tend to see politics as life itself and will go to almost any lengths to maintain office, while the latter, having either been born with a sense of identity (John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter) or acquired it before politics (Ronald Reagan) can view politics with more detachment - more civic duty than career.
What's true of presidents is also true of those who hold lesser offices. The actions and words of political pros warrant more skepticism. To them, the egocentric stakes are higher, while the civic volunteers tend to be more dependably honest because they can, if forced to the wall, walk away without suffering a psychological loss.
That syndrome makes eight-term Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham's admission that he had taken at least $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors to obtain government business even more disturbing because by all appearances, he belonged in the good-guy category - a Vietnam War Navy fighter ace who brought his swaggering ways to Congress after being elected from a San Diego County district.
Cunningham's all-consuming interest in defense matters as a congressman seemed natural for one with a military background and representing a district with a heavy military component, but we know now that his interest was more pecuniary than civic-minded. How could it be that a man who had exhibited such courage and honor in the service of his nation during wartime could do such dishonorable things in public office? At least he did a semi-honorable thing by admitting wrongdoing after months of denials.
"The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced by office," Cunningham told a news conference Monday after pleading guilty to taking bribes and resigning from Congress. "I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."
The federal charges - which could land the 63-year-old Cunningham in prison for up to a decade - evolved out of a transaction in which Cunningham sold his house to a defense contractor for nearly twice what it brought in a subsequent resale. Prosecutors said that among the $2.4-plus million in bribes were more than $1 million to pay down the mortgage on Cunningham's mansion, and $13,500 to buy a Rolls Royce. Defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who bought Cunningham's house, also allowed him to live rent-free on a yacht in the Potomac River.
"He did the worst thing an elected official can do," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. "He enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there."
Cunningham's lavish lifestyle of mansions, luxury autos and yachts was so blatant that one wonders whether he had some kind of subconscious wish to be discovered. Maybe the prison psychologists will figure it out - but it certainly runs against the grain of what we expect in military heroes who become politicians.
On a more prosaic level, Cunningham's resignation touches off a scramble among Republican politicians for his seat in a district that's heavily weighted toward the GOP. Even though Cunningham had already announced that he would not seek re-election in 2006, since he quit with more than year remaining in his term, a special election early next year is nearly certain.
State Sen. Bill Morrow, a Republican who's being forced out of the Legislature by term limits next year, is the leading candidate to succeed Cunningham. Former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, who has been an organizer for conservative political causes, is also a possibility.
From: Maria Newman, "Congressman Resigns After Admitting He Took Bribes" in The New York Times, 28 November 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/28/politics/29cnd-resign.html?hp&ex=1133240400&en=1949deeae2f616a3&ei=5094):
Representative Randy Cunningham of California resigned from Congress today after admitting to a federal judge that he had taken $2.4 million in bribes from a military contractor.
The following text is taken from a page which satirizes some of Rep. Cunningham's positions. The text is presented as it has been written by Rep. Cunningham. Although some people may view this author as narrow-minded and prejudiced, it should be noted that it is not the author's intention that readers actually believe that Rep. Cunningham wrote these words. The piece is intended as satire and political discourse. From: Dan E. Anderson, "Zealot of the Religious Right", part of "The Unauthorized Randy 'Duke' Cunningham Page" website, © 1996-2005 (http://www.dukecunningham.org/religiousright.html; viewed 28 November 2005):
Representative Randy Cunningham announced in July that he wouldn't seek re-election. Mr. Cunningham, 63, made a brief and tearful announcement to a group of reporters outside a federal courthouse in San Diego after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. He admitted to taking money from a military contractor in exchange for his supporting the contractor's efforts to secure Defense Department contracts. The eight-term Republican congressman, one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots of the Vietnam War, also pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.
"The truth is I broke the law," Mr. Cunningham, and "disgraced my family."
"I forfeited my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions," and, he added, his voice breaking, "most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."
"I can't undo what I have done but I can atone," he told reporters.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 27. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a six-figure fine.
Prosecutors said Mr. Cunningham had admitted to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes paid to him by several conspirators through a variety of methods, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.
"He did the worst thing an elected official can do - he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there," the United States attorney for the Southern District of California, Carol C. Lam said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press.
Mr. Cunningham announced in July that he would not seek re-election next year. His resignation today will trigger a special election to replace him.
Had Mr. Cunningham not resigned his Congressional seat, House rules governing members who have been convicted of a felony would have stripped him of his chairmanship of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence, and barred him from voting or participating in all committee work.
That Mr. Cunningham's downfall would come in a scandal involving a military contractor contrasted with his rise to political prominence based in part on distinguished military service. As a Navy pilot more than 30 years ago, Mr. Cunningham was wounded in action and received the nation's second-highest award for valor, the Navy Cross, after shooting down three North Vietnamese warplanes in one day.
Mr. Cunningham came under investigation last summer for a real estate deal involving Mitchell J. Wade, a founder of MZM Inc., a military contractor in Washington.
Mr. Wade bought Mr. Cunningham's home in the San Diego area in 2003 for what prosecutors say was an inflated price of $1,675,000. The following year Mr. Wade sold it at a loss of $700,000 even as other homes in San Diego, a hot real estate market, were selling for large profits.
The congressman and his wife then used the inflated proceeds to buy a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, a wealthy community north of San Diego, the government said.
Mr. Cunningham, who has long been known as Duke, was also living in Washington on a yacht, renamed the "Duke-Stir," according to the indictment, that was owned by Mr. Wade. The firm was also getting more federal military-related business in recent years, during a time when Mr. Cunningham was on a subcommittee overseeing military spending.
Mr. Cunningham's resignation is the latest blow to Republicans dealing with other ethics investigations. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas had to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in a campaign finance case. Investigators are looking into a stock sale by the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee. And I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted in the C.I.A. leak case.
Democrats were quick to pounce on the latest Republican trouble.
In Washington, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, said Mr. Cunningham's admission of guilt showed that Republicans had "the wrong priorities."
"This offense is just the latest example of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican-controlled Congress, which ignores the needs of the American people to serve wealthy special interests and their cronies," she said in a statement. "The Republican Congress has the wrong priorities. It is time to restore a high ethical standard to the Congress."
I'm also an stealth candidate of the radical religious right (just like the Grossmont or the old Vista school boards). I have a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition. In 2004, I snuck in a last-minute provision in the appropriations bill to transfer the Mt. Soledad Cross to the National Park Service. In 2005, I voted to order U.S. Marshals to not enforce a U.S. Court order removing a Ten Commandants display from an Indiana courthouse lawn. Who cares about the First Amendment to the Constitution (separation of church and state) or what the U.S. courts say?
The following was written by a person who strongly disagreed with Rep. Cunningham's statements about the events in former Yugoslavia. This material is reproduced here only as background information and represents the opinion of its author, not of this website. From: Dan E. Anderson, "My Friends, the Serbs" webpage, part of "The Unauthorized Randy 'Duke' Cunningham Page" website, © 1996-2005 (http://www.dukecunningham.org/genocide.html; viewed 28 November 2005):
Here's a picture of me with my bud, TV evangelist Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). He makes a bundle preaching on TV. Maybe I could do that someday and rake in some more of that heavenly dough-ray-me!
Basically, my view of people is: if they are Christian they are good, and if they are not Christian, they are bad. That's why I support the Christian Serbs. They do commit genocide (ethnic cleansing) against their (non-Christian) neighbors, but who cares about them? After all, the Bosnians and Kosovars are Muslim and the Croats are Catholic (not real Christians). They aren't Christian American's like us, so let my Serbian friends "take care" of them, if you know what I mean!
TBN tele-evangelist Paul Crouch with Cunningham
genocide n: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
From: "Separation of Church and State: The Use of Religious Symbols by Municipalities and States (Nativity displays, mottos, crests, seals, crosses, etc)" webpage on "Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance" (OCRT) website (http://www.religioustolerance.org/sep_c_s1.htm; viewed 28 November 2005):
What do you call a man who supports a nation or people that has:
- committed three wars against it's neighbors,
- have committed mass murder against civilians on a scale not seen since the holocaust, and
- and has kidnapped three of our brave U.S. Servicemen as "Prisoners of War"?
Give up? I'll give you a hint, it's a U.S. Congressman.
Still stumped? Why it's me, Randy Cunningham!
Before you get your dander up, let me explain. Basically, my view of people is: if they are Christian they are good, and if they are not Christian, they are bad. Take, for example my friends the (Christian) Serbs. They do commit war crimes, such as genocide (ethnic cleansing) against their neighbors, but who cares? After all, the Bosnians and Kosovars (ko-SAH-vars) are Muslim and the Croats are Catholic (not real Christians) -- so I say let them have at it! They aren't Christian American's like us, so let my Serbian friends "take care" of them, if you know what I mean!
In a show of support for my Serbian friends, I gave the keynote speech in Sept. 1997 before S.U.C., the Serbian Unity Congress:
"Now we need to take a look at who befriended us. . . . While the Serbs, since before King Peter I, had been rooted in democracy, the United States has supported the Croatians and the [Bosnian] Muslims . . . . Why can't we have a debate on the House floor for the first time on the Balkans and the Serbian position, and I am going to do that, ladies and gentlemen.
The first thing we can do, I think, is to pray because we were brought up as Christians. . . . The United States needs to stay out of the war crimes issue. . . . be very careful that you don't, in hysteria, charge a patriot and make that individual into a criminal who is not, because that is just as big of a crime."
More recently (March 1999) I said this on the floor of the U.S. Congress:
"Kosovo is like any of the United States is to Greater Serbia. It is not a separate entity. It is the birthplace of the Orthodox Catholic religion. It is their home. It was occupied by 100% Serbs, and the Turks and the Nazis eliminated and desecrated and ethnically cleansed Jews, Gypsies and Serbs and now the population is Albanian." [Congressional Record, 106th Congress, 3/11/1999]
San Diego, CA: Sixteen years of conflict came to an end on 2005-MAR-8, when San Diego City Council voted 5 to 3 to reject a plan to retain a 45-foot cross which has stood at the top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla, CA. since 1954. A federal judge has repeatedly ordered that the cross, which had been built on land owned by the city, be removed. The city had tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to sell the land to some person or group. Two Republican representatives, Randy Cunningham and Duncan Hunter, inserted an amendment to a federal spending bill in 2003 which would have had the land taken over by the National Park Service. But City Attorney Michael Aguirre issued a legal opinion that donating the land to the federal government for a religious purpose would be a violation of both California's constitution and the federal constitution. Several local churches have offered to have the cross relocated to their property. One is located within 1000 feet of the cross' present location.
From: Abbie Grant, "Duke only the tip of corruption iceberg" (letter to the editor), published in San Diego Union Tribune, 2 October 2005 (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/politics/cunningham/20051002-704-headline.html; viewed 28 November 2005):
A watchdog group has included Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Rancho Santa Fe, on its list of the dirty 13 members of Congress cited for their corrupt practices. The bipartisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington cited "the 13 most corrupt members of Congress" and is aggressively pushing for an ethics committee investigation. Why? Because this group of responsible Democrats and Republicans wants to return government to its respectable roots.
This comes as no surprise. But bigger than Cunningham are the Daddy Warbucks government contractors in San Diego who benefited handsomely from their poster boy of political corruption. It would be very appropriate to say that these Navy boys truly "floated his boat."
The issue with the contractors (war profiteers?) and Cunningham is more than that he got caught. It is an iceberg situation. We only really know 10 percent of the real size of the corruption.
Webpage created 28 November 2005. Last modified 28 November 2005.
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