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Matthew Hoy currently works as a metro page designer at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The opinions presented here do not represent those of the Union-Tribune and are solely those of the author.

If you have any opinions or comments, please e-mail the author at: hoystory -at- cox -dot- net.

Dec. 7, 2001
Christian Coalition Challenged
Hoystory interviews al Qaeda
Fisking Fritz
Politicizing Prescription Drugs

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Sunday, June 12, 2005
Duke on the take?: Today's San Diego Union-Tribune has an interesting story on my congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido. [I can't figure out why he's identified as beign from Escondido when the two homes mentioned in the story are in Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe.]

A defense contractor with ties to Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took a $700,000 loss on the purchase of the congressman's Del Mar house while the congressman, a member of the influential defense appropriations subcommittee, was supporting the contractor's efforts to get tens of millions of dollars in contracts from the Pentagon.

Mitchell Wade bought the San Diego Republican's house for $1,675,000 in November 2003 and put it back on the market almost immediately for roughly the same price. But the Del Mar house languished unsold and vacant for 261 days before selling for $975,000.

Meanwhile, Cunningham used the proceeds of the $1,675,000 sale to buy a $2.55 million house in Rancho Santa Fe. And Wade, who had been suffering through a flat period in winning Pentagon contracts, was on a tear – reeling in tens of millions of dollars in defense and intelligence-related contracts.

I honestly don't know what to think about Cunningham's culpability here. This is news because Wade took a big loss on the transaction. If he'd made a tidy profit flipping the house, then there wouldn't be a story here. The interesting part of the story is a few more paragraphs down.

"I don't know why it didn't sell," said listing agent Elizabeth Todd, a Realtor with the Willis Allen Co. in Del Mar. "I honestly don't. I mean, it's a house in Del Mar west of I-5 and it's a good-sized house. I honestly don't know why."

No Realtor was formally involved when Cunningham sold the house to Wade. But Todd had set the asking price for Cunningham at $1,675,000 and sent a table of comparable house sales to Wade justifying the price, she and Cunningham said. He didn't hire Todd as the listing agent and never paid her a fee, she added. Nor was the house ever posted in the Realtors' multiple listing service, she added.

If you've got a list of comps, and the price Cunningham is asking for is in line with the others, then this should really be no big deal. If the comps weren't comparable or were doctored somehow, then we've got a problem -- but the story doesn't go into that aspect -- and it's the real heart of the issue.

What we need to see is the list of comps both when Cunningham sold his home and again when Wade tried to flip it. All the rest is peripheral -- it explains why Wade would overpay for the home and why that unethical at best and illegal at worst.

9:54 PM

On the issue of comps-- As a realtor in a past life, it has been my experience that comps may be off 5-10%, but never 40%. If the Union-Trib follows up and checks comps, it needs to do more than just look at properties "west of the I 5." You need to look at size, condition, and a number of other issues. A realtor off by 40% won't last long in the business.

You seem to avoid the issue of why Wade bought the property and then put it right back on the market and his change of luck in securing millions of dollars in Gov't. contracts.

This situation smells. Matt--would you be so reluctant to jump on this if Duke were a democrat?
The comps don't matter... this smells and if Hillary had done this the repubs would be going nuts. Sounds like Duke is a crook.
I didn't avoid the "why" of it. The "why" is plainly clear in the article. Once again, if Wade had flipped it and made a profit, there's no there there.

If you want to build a case for the House ethics committee, you need to look at the comps. I even noted that the comps had to be comparable.

As for my political bias -- I'd like to think that I'd be as reticent if this were Bob Filner we were talking about. The story has a hole in it. The reporter attempted to address the issue by quoting the realtor Elizabeth Todd, but she's not the best possible source. The best source is the MLS data -- an analysis of that data is either damning or exculpatory.

It would also tell us something about the abilities of Ms. Todd -- maybe there will be an opening for you to get back into the business.
Also, if Duke is guilty -- as he may very well be -- then I'm well positioned for a run for Congress.
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