Brent Roger Wilkes
The Washington Post once called him an “obscure California defense contractor,” but
in Washington D.C. power circles, there was nothing obscure about Wilkes. He owned
multiple companies that won hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contracts,
and his largesse to disgraced Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) and the one-time
No. 3 official at the CIA landed him under indictment.
He doled out $840,000 in campaign contributions to favored members of Congress; he gave them expensive dinners, cash and trips; and he invited them to regular poker parties that he held in expensive D.C. hotel suites, where guests were treated to food, liquor and good cigars. In that same period, his companies received government contracts of more than $90 million.
No one can call him obscure now. Indicted on 11 charges ranging from bribery to wire services fraud, Wilkes made headlines when former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham admitted accepting more than half a million dollars in cash and gifts from him in return for lucrative contracts and other favors. Wilkes also faces charges for working with his longtime best friend to kick a perfectly good water supplier to the curb and give a Wilkes company millions to provide clean drinking water for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The friend is former CIA Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who was indicted with Wilkes.
According to the joint indictment of Wilkes and Foggo (close friends since high school and roommates at San Diego State University), the two men worked together to create fake companies and lie to both the CIA and to Wilkes’ subordinates in order to steer contracting money from the Defense Department in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to Wilkes. Foggo gave Wilkes classified CIA information to use in winning contracts, and he encouraged a CIA contractor to hire Wilkes as a lobbyist, at a rate of $375,000 every three months. And together they laundered the profits.
Wilkes also faces separate criminal charges for his role in bribing Cunningham. According to that indictment, he not only bribed his way to more than $100 million in contracts, he got Cunningham to act as his enforcer, browbeating government agencies into paying Wilkes, even when Wilkes’ work was shoddy or unfinished.
Wilkes worked his friendship with Foggo from the start of his career. In the early 1980s, Wilkes owned a company called World Finance Corp. At that time Foggo worked for the CIA in Honduras, and Wilkes brought congressional Republicans to Central America to meet with him, as well as members of the Nicaraguan rebel group, the Contras.
His relationships with GOP politicians helped him secure a job in 1992 with a California document scanning company called Audre, which brought him aboard to help it land defense contracts. According to an article in the New York Times, Audre and Wilkes donated $54,000 in two years to congressmen on the House Appropriations Committee; in those same years, Audre received defense contracts totaling $34 million.
To grant the contracts, the congressmen had to create a program specifically for document scanning at the Pentagon, something that the Department of Defense never requested. In 1994, the Government Accounting Office issued a report calling the programs redundant; the Pentagon already owned document-scanning equipment and didn’t need to contract the service out to private companies. Later, the Pentagon’s Inspector General would issue a report calling the document-scanning contracts a drain on other, more important DoD programs.
In early 1995, Wilkes struck out on his own, forming ADCS Inc., a company that used different software to accomplish the same document scanning tasks as Audre. Wilkes hired the lobbying firm of former Congressman Bill Lowery, and he cultivated relationships with congressmen on the Appropriations Committee, most notably Cunningham and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-California. In 10 years, Wilkes and ADCS donated $840,000 in campaign contributions to 32 lawmakers. In 1993, Wilkes and Lowery took Lewis on a diving trip to Belize, and one of Wilkes’ companies provided a private jet to fly Cunningham on trips to Idaho and Hawaii. And he raised more than $100,000 for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.
His company, ADCS, won more than $90 million in defense contracts. It was not the only Wilkes company to reap profits from the government. The Wilkes Corporation has at least a dozen subsidiaries, most with government contracts of their own.
Archer Logistics, according to the Wilkes-Foggo indictment, seems to have been incorporated specifically to win contracts involving the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It won a contract worth $1.7 million with the CIA to provide bottled water and first-aid kits to agents in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though the CIA already had a water supplier and Wilkes’ company had no experience in this area. (The president of Archer Logistics is Joel Combs, Wilkes’ nephew and a lobbyist registered with Wilkes’ group.) The indictment quotes e-mails between Foggo and Wilkes as they plan ways to siphon war contracts to Wilkes’ companies.
Shortly after forming ADCS and winning Pentagon contracts, Wilkes also began throwing poker parties for his influential friends in Washington, D.C. Foggo was a regular guest, as were congressmen and CIA officials, including a former agent named Brant “Nine Fingers” Bassett and Porter Goss, former CIA director who resigned abruptly in May 2006. The Justice Department and the House Intelligence Committee are investigating the relationship between Bassett, Goss, Wilkes and Foggo.
When Goss elevated Foggo to the CIA’s No. 3 position in 2005, many speculated it was on the recommendation of Bassett, a former Wilkes consultant. Foggo was forced to resign that post in 2006, and he is under investigation by several agencies, including the FBI and the CIA Inspector General, who want to know whether he used his influence to guide contracts to Wilkes’ companies.
Even companies in which Wilkes does not seem to have an ownership stake have thrived on government money. In 2001, Wilkes began using a little-known firm called Shirlington Limo to transport his friends to and from his poker parties. By 2006, Shirlington had a $21 million contract to drive the top officials of the Department of Homeland Security, despite the fact that its owner Christopher Baker, had a criminal record that was 62 pages long. Harpers Magazine reported that Baker’s record would legally prevent him from getting a taxi license in Washington, D.C.