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Feasting on the Spoils: The Life and Times of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, History's Most Corrupt Congressman Hardcover – July 10, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Without fanfare, Hettena, an Associated Press reporter based near Republican congressman Randy Duke Cunningham's district in Southern California, lays out the facts of his political downfall in 2006— which some observers believe tarnished the GOP and enabled the Democrats to regain their congressional majority. Though the shockwaves emanating from Cunningham's downfall have continued to make headlines—among eight federal prosecutors forced to resign from the Justice Department last year was Carol Lam, who ran the investigation of the two defense contractors who gave Cunningham $2.4 million over a five-year period, more than half of it in just three months—Hettena doesn't reach for the broader political ramifications. He debunks the most lurid stories of contractors providing prostitutes for congressmen at the Watergate, but the corruption and sexual harassment he does pin down are more than sufficiently sordid. He also probes Cunningham's background as a self-aggrandizing Vietnam fighter pilot and combative politician who once got into a fistfight with a Democratic colleague outside House chambers. This straightforward account is a strong summation of Cunningham's ignoble career. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Seth Hettena
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1ST edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312368291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312368296
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #318,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chris Catalano on August 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Great work Seth Hettena! I really enjoyed reading this book. I lived in San Diego during the "Duke" era and was shocked when all of this corruption scandal unfolded. Seth did a great job in describing the events of this crime. He also paints a very different picture of the "Duke" we all knew. The great Vietnam fighter ace was able to defeat his enemy, but was not able to fight off his own addiction to fame, money and status.

It was very clear to me after reading this book how our culture of materialism and consumerism has gotten out of control. The "Duke" got caught up in this and loses site of what is important in life and his purpose as a father, husband and congressional representative. Seth paints a very clear picture of a man caught up in his own ego unable to distinguish right from wrong. This book reminded me about the frailty of human beings and the necessity to show how bad it can get when we lose site of our purpose. This timely book should not only be a must read for every politician....but everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating story that was extremely well told. The book chronicles Cunningham's life and demonstrates how and why he became so corrupt. While the political corruption aspect was interesting, I thought the best parts were the chapters about Cunningham's life before Congress. In retrospect, given Cunningham's obvious limitations, one has to ask oneself how it was possible that he ever got elected (let alone by overwhelming margins). This was a man of extremely limited intelligence who spent his entire life trading on the fame he earned as the first ace of the Vietnam war.

The other fascinating part of the book is that it shows just how easy it is for a member of Congress to be corrupted. After reading it, we should look long and hard at practices such as "legislative earmarks" and gerrymandered political districts, both of which played a strong part in Cunningham's saga. A gerrymandered district ensured that he would always be re-elected (despite the observation by the local, conservative, paper that he was an embarrassment to the voters), while the "earmark" process allowed him to payback his benefactors by inserting hidden contracts into spending bills. If we are ever going to have a semblance of true democracy, both of these practices must stop. This book demonstrates how and why both of these practices have such a deleterious effect on our government. It's a great story that was exceedingly well told.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our country is in trouble. Big trouble. The amount of greed and corruption that is being allowed to run amuck these past seven years is staggering. With all of the terror mongering going on, many will turn the other way not wanting any more bad news. Do not make that mistake.

Hettena has masterfully taken a complex, convoluted and just plain confusing history and woven a fascinating and comprehensible story which helps us understand not only what happened in the case of Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his contractor cronies, Wade and Wilkes, but skillfully illuminates the reasons why.

Perhaps some of you will say they're unethical - so what? The amount of corruption and the web of complicity throughout our government and industry have reached record breadth and depth. It will not improve until the American public pays attention, understands, and demands that it be stopped. Each of us has a part in this drama. A good place to start is reading this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Seth has written what I thought was a balanced and accurate account of events in the Cunningham corruption case. His commendable reporting is in dramatic contrast to "The Wrong Stuff". Speaking only to my direct experience, I was shocked and appalled at the fabricated "facts" contained in the fictionalizations perpetrated by "The Wrong Stuff". Thank you Mr. Hettena for not succumbing to creatively sleaze up an already scandalous situation and for sticking to relating the real story of this compelling non-fiction tragedy.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very well-written book. It's an alarming case study not just of greed, but of 'vaulting ambition' run amok. After reading it, I believe that Cunningham was: (a) genuinely patriotic, but (b) a deeply insecure bully, and (c) hugely incompetent. He is not a sympathetic character, yet author Seth Hettena provides an entertaining story; like a car crash from which one can't turn away, I was glued to the narrative, eager to see what bad move the characters would do next. It's also an 'easy read' -- good for airplane reading or a rainy weekend.
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