Duke Cunningham's Pardon File

I received a response today from the Justice Department to my request under the Freedom of Information Act for former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s petition for clemency from President Bush. I’ve written about this here.

The Office of the Pardon Attorney withheld Cunningham’s clemency application as well as correspondence from his attorney, James B. Craven III. They did, however, provide some letters written on Cunningham’s behalf, which I have posted here. Some of these letters were written before Cunningham asked President Bush to commute his sentence in December 2007.

Cunningham, a Republican who represented the San Diego-area for 15 years, is the most corrupt congressman in history. He is serving a 100-month sentence for taking millions of dollars in bribes from two defense contractors. Cunningham was also the first flying ace of the Vietnam War. As the letters show, he is still a hero to some.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about this. Please leave a comment below.


  1. M Raedle

    NOT ” the most corrupt congressman in history.” Please.

    He is a dumb as. Yes. Does deserve a pardon though.

  2. mailfist

    No pardon.
    I pulled two tours in country (in other words I pulled both Bush’s and Cheney’s tours since both were too ch*ckensh*t to serve).
    I am disgusted with Cunningham’s behavior.
    He got what he deserved. He cried like a little girl on camera as the marshals took him away in handcuffs.
    Interestingly the US Atty who prosecuted Cunningham was fired by Bush because she….wait for it….prosecuted Cunningham.
    Of course Bush probably will pardon Cunningham on his last day in office.

  3. Kirt Edstrom

    To those who say Randy Cunningham is the most corrupt, Just ake a look at the many hundreds of Senators and Congressmen/women that have gotten away with more. For instance Ted Kennedy the biggest waste of skin alive Drown a woman and was never brought to justice. I served with Randy Cunningham in the Navy when I was a young LTjg pilot and I look at him no different today as he was as a Navy CDR.

  4. Jack

    While the Duke was eating steak and ice creame back on his carrier I was “duking” it out mano y mano with viet cong and main force N. Vietnamese army units–not for the 10 hours or so that the Duke spent in combat but for about 8,000 hours. No steak or ice creme either nor clean sheets to sleep under each night. The Duke’s worst crime was not taking bribes but trying to destroy the careers of honest career government employees who got in his way–despicable. He was full of himself–arrogant beyound belief–he deserves every single day in prison of his 100 month sentence. Lt. Col. USMC (ret)

    • Gerald Sobel

      Jack, from now on I’ll write in, steak and ice cream for you. I understand that the House Staff at Khe San were all VC. When there was an assault, they didn’t show up for work. Anyway, the piss shit and corruption is still going on to this day, but why focus on a guy who put his ass in the line of fire?

  5. Raymond Goens

    When I would see Duke and Irish heading for one of our aggressor aircraft at Top gun N.F.W.S I would try to always be there for the pre -flight and do a last minute check on the egress system before the launch, to me it was special to be associated with these MIG KILLERS, they were no nonsense and made a good team, they are both the best that the Navy had over North Vietnam at the time, in fact I couldnt think of a name for my new pedigree Boxer dog so I took the liberty of naming him DUKE after a fighter pilot that I know and respect, Hope to see you two together soon on the U.S.S. Midway, and yes I think a Pardon is in order for Randy( Duke) Cunningham.


    as an ex fighter pilot most have very high honor/principals… to use political position to take bribes is disgusting

  7. tracey roberts

    i used to love to watch on the military channle duke discribe his encounters in the sky over vietnam. inever got board from hearing it over and over. now when i see him on any channel i change it to something else. how could he do the things he did? he disgraced himself,our military,and our country. should he be pardoned? NO!

    • Gerald Sobel

      Tracy, dude, he and Driscol be the ONLY NAVY ACES OF THE WHOLE WAR! The guy’s a hero. So what if he did what every other swinging door Congressman did and still does and we breath and read.

      One of these days I’m going to build the model of his F4-Juliet that I bought from E-Bay. If you want to punish the guy, make him pay for letting the NVA shoot down his piece of govmint property.

      • Frank

        Nice reply Gelrald, even as we speak at this time, I wish I could have flown with Randy. He was Phantoms and I was in crusaders. Randy and his WSO Driscoll were the ultimate Vietnam air warriors that many new aviators in my squadron really admired and wanted to emulate. It’s a shame what has happened, but I will take him back any day.

  8. Frank Green

    Sounds to me like their is so much jealousy from all the crap talking ACE wanta be’s. You look in the mirror. There you will see a dishonest person and a liar. Leave Randy alone. He served his country and he did it well. He will always be the first ACE of the Vietnam war like it or not. There have been many more politicians that have done worse and have hardly done any time. Randy is a fighter pilot in a prisoner of war camp. ad far as I am concerned His survival instincts will help him survive the prison stupidity and abuse.

  9. Larry Crow

    We Americans don’t like our heroes to become tarnished. He has served half his sentence. Let’s forgive him and move on. He will remain disgraced for the rest of his life. Let that be enough.

  10. Sam Pannill

    Enough! This man is a national hero . . also a human being subject to all the weakness of any of us . . . release him immediately.

  11. Bill Smothers

    100 months seems excessive considering the bilking of the American public by Nancy Pelosi. I can see where a politician would become wrapped up in power and money and we have plenty of examples serving us now. This man is an American hero who screwed up and deserves a second chance to make a new life for himself and his family, if he still has one.

  12. chris

    piece of trash, he was suppose to represent the people, a thug who says he is a thug is better than one who claims to be looking out for you. let him rot.

  13. jack howard

    This man is a war hero! His only crime was his stupid greed
    which does not justify the harsh punishment issued by leftwing traitorous loons. There are members of congress on
    the left that openly flaunt their dishonest actions with impunity. This will bite them in the ass and the nation will not continue to tolerate the crap from 12.75 per cent
    of the population. Majority will always rule.

    • Gerald Sobel

      Horray for Randy. I doubt he didn’t do anything other than what the typical Congressmen do day in and day out. Why isn’t Cheney or Bush rotting in jail for lying about evidence leading to the Iraq war? Cheney siphoned off billions of dollars to his company which profited from the war, for example, charging the DoD $30/hamburger, for cheap rotten meat for our servicemen.
      Oh, by the way, I’m a former classmate of his RIO, Driscoll, and how can I forget, as he zipped passed me in his Corvette as we returned from St. Simmon’s Island to NAS Glynco, Brunswick, GA, I tried to catch up with him on my Honda 450 and got nailed for speeding. And yeah, I’m to the left of the Democrats; so much for blaming me for him being in prison just for business as usual. PHOOEY!

  14. Tom Thygesen

    I only came across this today while looking for something else, but I’ll say this.

    He was a hero of mine. Broke my heart to see him be corrupted by this sesspool in Washington. That said, no clemancy. He broke the faith and deserves prison. He does his time, and if he gets parole, so be it. But no special treatment.

    But what I DO take issue with is your statement that he’s the most corrupt Congressman in history. PLEASE! Don’t EVEN go there. He’s not even close. And what’s worse is your false statement that he took millions of dollars in bribes.

    Actually, as I recall the amount came out to less than a million. (Not that that makes any difference to me.) He didn’t typically take cash. He usually accepted gifts, which often were in the form of expensive pieces of antique furniture, for which he had a penchant. In one case, he sold his home to a lobbyist for WAY more than it was worth — several hundreds of thousands more — so that could be seen as cash.

    Again, I’m making no excuses for the man. He broke the faith and deserves prison. But don’t over state the case. We’re looking at some real corrupt bastards right now among the Democrats and there’s a lot of covering up going on. All too often what lands a Republican in prison gets glossed over for a Democrat.

    The current administration has pulled some amazing stunts, and some of his Chicago-style backroom dealings are starting to be leaked to the public. You’ve only seen the beginning. I used to think Clinton was the worst I’d seen. That’s before this Chicago gangster came to town!

    For what it’s worth, I don’t care what party someone belongs to. Corruption is corruption, and I find it completely intolerable whomever commits it.

  15. Sam Pannill

    Mr. Hettena, Perhaps enough time has passed since I last posted a comment on January 11, 2010 stating my position on Duke Cunningham’s request for a pardon. The ensuing conduct of certain members of Congress since then would suggest that Duke Cunningham was a minor league player in comparison. It is still my position that he should be released immediately, in consideration of his heroic and distinguished service to our country as a fighter ace in the United States Airforce.

    • CharlieO

      Stop for a moment and realized that he also caused the Republicans losing the House in ’05 that has led in a big way to the mess we are in today. He was one of my hero’s and I remain grateful for his service and sacrifice in Vietnam. BUT he should serve his complete sentence as a reminder to others. We should aggressively go after “all” the corrupt POLS that are much bigger players!!

    • jeff wilson

      If you’re are going to praise him get the branch of service correct.He was in the Navy.

  16. Mark

    Trump does not have to pardon him. He can commute his sentence and he would leave prison as a felon.

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