Randy “Duke” Cunningham was said to be the model for “Maverick” Mitchell in the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster “Top Gun.” Brash, cocky and with his own code of honor. Something denied by the producers.
Unfortunately, in real life, Duke Cunningham was a crook – helping defense contractors to obtain federal contracts in return for bribed. Representing California’s 50th Congressional District (San Diego area), Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. Duke admitted taking more than $2.4 million in bribes and was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison plus paying $1.8 million in restitution.
An honorable thief?
In many ways, Duke was the most honest of the dishonest politicians. He has a fixed price list for services, and once bought apparently stayed bought – never shaking down his clients for additional funds. And unlike most of his douchebag colleagues who grew rich trading on insider information, Cunningham at least rendered a service to his clients.
On July 14, 2008, I commented: “It should be said that even at his corrupt worst, Duke Cunningham was far more honorable than the democrats … he had a menu of bribes offered to all comers and actually kept his part of the bargain in providing “quid pro quo” benefits. Apparently not like the democrats who will sell out anybody if a better offer appears.”
Another chance for Cruise?
It was reported in 2006 that Tom Cruise purchased the movie rights to Cunningham’s story and was attempting to write a screenplay as a vehicle for him and Katie Holmes that would loosely chronicle Duke’s decent into corruption.
The future …
As with many criminals, Cunningham has claimed that much of what was presented at trial may not have been totally accurate and that he was unable to fully participate in the trial due to the use of sedatives. Sounds like a book in the making.
Bottom line …
No matter what Randy “Duke” Cunningham did or was alleged to have done, there were never any suggestions of him selling information or favors to foreign nationals or taking foreign money. Unlike the current crop of democrat politicians whose patriotism can be questioned.
I wish Duke fair winds and following seas. He got caught doing what many of his congressional colleagues did and still do – and he paid the price for slipping from grace. It’s over and he can start his life over again.
Full Disclosure: I still have a “Top Gun” hat signed by Duke Cunningham in storage.