Belongings on block

Ex-lawmaker Cunningham's furniture auctioned


RANCHO DOMINGUEZ, Calif. -- Randy "Duke" Cunningham has commanded public attention for the past year, as he fell from a position of power in Congress to disgrace and federal prison after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes.

The fascination appears to be over.

The much-ballyhooed Internal Revenue Service auction of the contents of Cunningham's San Diego County home - acquired largely as the wages of corruption - drew little response yesterday, despite heavy advance publicity.

Few among the hundreds of people who showed up at the regular IRS auction at a cavernous warehouse were aware that the politician's belongings were available.

But by the end of the auction in the afternoon, all 34 pieces from Cunningham's home had sold, for a total of $94,625.

Among the assets Cunningham forfeited were antique sideboards and French armoires.

The first to go was a Gorham pair of silver candelabras, which sold for $2,000. The buyer declined to comment.

The top Cunningham item was a large oriental rug that went for $10,000. The least expensive were three rattan panels that fetched a total of $225.

A chest of drawers for lingerie brought $2,300, a lamp $850, a nightstand $650 and an armoire $2,750.

Robert Ro of Fullerton said he was not aware that Cunningham's furniture was on sale. He said he came for rugs but might bid on some of the Cunningham household goods.

"I think he got a better deal when he got those bribes," Ro said. "But hopefully I can get as good, if not better, here."

Billy and Christy Abney came from Bakersfield with their 1-year-old son looking for a car. They were not aware of the Cunningham items, but Christy quickly focused on the former congressman's rugs.

"I have a bad feeling we might be walking away with one of these rugs instead of the car we came for," Billy Abney lamented.

There was lively interest in some of the other items up for auction, such as the diamond-encrusted Rolex and Cartier wristwatches, the 3,988 heating pads, and 156 bottles of Glenfiddich scotch that were not part of the Cunningham loot.

There was a silver Mercedes-Benz up for bid (alas, the Ferrari Modena had been withdrawn).

The IRS splits the proceeds among the agencies that investigated the cases that led to the forfeitures.

Yesterday morning, so many media reporters were present that one auction aficionado said the prices were affected.

James Garofalo of Montebello, who described himself as a regular auction-goer, said he came for a brown leather couch from the Cunningham booty.

Garofalo said he had hoped to pay $300, but with all the hype, he was afraid the price would mushroom to more than $3,000.

"Don't the press have anything better to do with their time?" Garofalo groused.

Kelly-Anne Suarez and Tony Perry write for the Los Angeles Times.

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