They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Pleading guilty is for chumps like Mitchell Wade, apparently.

Brent Wilkes, that's Duke Cunningham's Mr. Coconspirator #1 to you, will not plead guilty, according to today's WSJ expose. That must be very good news to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), his buddy at the CIA, and others whom Wilkes had bought into.

Even though prosecutors have a fair amount on Wilkes, somehow he thinks he can beat this rap. And he's in for a long, expensive haul. Maybe that's why in February, he took out a $1.5 million loan on his home.

Expect more juicy details (eeew) on the Cunningham sex scandal shortly.

I'm told that while the Wall Street Journal was first to press with details on the prostitute angle of the Cunningham-Wade-Wilkes scandal, at least two other publications have been delving into the matter for months. What's more, they've got details that are a good deal more salacious than what the WSJ reported. I'd look for them to rush what they've got into print as soon as it gets past the lawyers.

We may soon have more details of our own, so stay tuned. . .

FBI Thinks Several Lawmakers Got Hookers through Wade, Wilkes

The FBI is probing whether now-imprisoned Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and other lawmakers spent time with prostitutes arranged for and paid by Mitchell Wade, former head of defense-intelligence contractor MZM Inc., and Brent Wilkes, of ADCS. Both men are accused of bribing Cunningham; Wade has admitted it, and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The FBI's also curious about staff members who may have joined in on the action, which is said to take place in the Westin Grand and -- yes, the second time is farce -- the Watergate. (WSJ)

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The Wall Street Journal reports today that admitted briber Mitchell Wade of MZM, Inc. helped procure prostitutes for former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) -- and possibly for others:

According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Mr. Wade told investigators that Mr. Cunningham periodically phoned him to request a prostitute, and that Mr. Wade then helped to arrange for one. A limousine driver then picked up the prostitute as well as Mr. Cunningham, and drove them to one of [two] hotel suites, originally at the Watergate Hotel, and subsequently at the Westin Grand.

. . . [I]nvestigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

Wade says his mentor and fellow Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes had set up the ring -- rented the hotel rooms, found the limousine company and the hookers. According to the WSJ, Wade says he usually passed off Cunningham's requests to Wilkes to set up.

More on this later. . .

Here's a curious story, courtesy of Harper's new investigative blog, which adds a new star to our firmament of muck: Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN).

Last year, four defense firms moved into a new "business incubator" based in Merrillville, Indiana, of all places, Harper's Ken Silverstein reports.

At first blush, that's quite a coincidence -- four defense firms relocating to the same spot, right in middle of nowhere. What are the odds? But it gets weirder.

Silverstein says all four companies hired the same Washington, D.C. lobbying firm to help them win defense contracts, a shop called the PMA Group.

He also found that they all gave lots of money to the same congressman to help pry government money loose. (That's right, Pete Visclosky.)

It is no surprise, then, that Merrillville is smack dab in the middle of Visclosky's district. Or that Visclosky built the business center that houses those firms with $7 million in earmarks. Or that his former chief of staff, Richard Kaelin, is now a lobbyist with the PMA Group.

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Here's an interesting in-depth profile of a woman at the center of the DeLay empire who has remarkably escaped notice (until now): Susan Hirschmann, one of DeLay's top aides from 1997 to 2002. She was at the center of the scandal: she went on the infamous Scotland junket in 2000, as well as the Russia trip in 1997. Yet she's not a target of Justice investigators.

Maybe she's clean. In the many stories of scams that cut through DeLay's office, none have yet mentioned Hirschmann. But many of the characters who perpetrated those scams worked for Hirschmann when she was chief of staff, so she must have been aware, to some degree, of what was under her nose.

It raises an interesting question: Did Hirschmann cooperate with Justice folks from the early days of the scandal? The profile -- from the Influence section of Legal Times, which tracks the lobbying world -- doesn't directly touch on the matter. But it would certainly explain how a figure as central as Hirschmann could stay so far behind the scenes, while her former colleagues face harsh public scrutiny.

(Ed. note: Updated 4:54 P.M.)

Both MSNBC and the AP agree that Karl Rove has appeared today to discuss why he failed early on in the investigation to tell prosecutors about a conversation he had with Time reporter Matt Cooper.

Apparently another Time reporter, Viveca Novak, was aware of the conversation between the two men and mentioned it to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin. But it wasn't for several months later that Rove himself fessed up to prosecutors.

So the question would be: why the lag time?

Novak told prosecutors that she'd told Luskin about the Cooper conversation, and since then they've been anxious to hear from Rove why they got the information second-hand -- and several months late.

This, then, would be the "loose end" Rove supporters are talking about.

Trying to wrap your head around the events behind the New Hampshire phone jamming?

Whose idea was it? Which national political operative called which consultant when? When were those calls to the White House?

This should help: the TPM New Hampshire Phone Jamming Timeline. Check it out - and as always, we welcome reader feedback on corrections or additions.

The trial of the White House advisor who confessed to shoplifting charges has been postponed indefinitely. Claude Allen had been slated to appear in court tomorrow; the Maryland Attorney General's office said the judge agreed to a motion to delay the trial. A new date hasn't been set, but conventional wisdom puts it in June sometime.

Just saw John King on CNN a few minutes ago, relating the significance of today's testimony. According to those in Karl Rove's camp, who apparently have King's ear, today's appearance, Rove's 5th before Fitzpatrick's grand jury, really is good news - since Rove is being provided the opportunity to "tie up a few loose ends."

Transcript below.

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