February 04, 2008

back post: On Congressman Jerry Lewis from Daily Kos

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Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is under investigation for his ties to lobbyist and former congressman Bill Lowery. The investigation is reportedly an extension of the Duke Cunningham investigation.

Lewis represents California's 41st district. He is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, which he chaired from January 2005 to November 2006. From 1999-2005 Lewis chaired the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He was first elected to Congress in 1978 and is currently serving his fourteenth consecutive term. He is up for re-election in November 2008 and he's said he will run.

Follow breaking Lewis news at TPMmuckraker.

Key Points:

The investigation has been stalled repeatedly, most recently after the Justice Department declined to extend the appointment of most recent prosecutor Michael Emmick in September 2007.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the slowdown, due partly to the departure of top prosecutors (including former U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles Debra Yang and her replacement, veteran prosecutor Michael Emmick) and partly to budget shortages in U.S. Attorney offices across the country.

Lobbyist Bill Lowery, his associates and clients have given heavily to Lewis. Lewis, meanwhile, has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars for Lowery's clients.

Lewis and Lowery are longtime friends who served together on the House Appropriations Committee from 1985-1993. After Lowery moved on to a career as a lobbyist, Lewis greenlighted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for clients of Lowery's Washington lobbying firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. Lowery, the partners at his firm, and their clients have donated 37% of the $1.3 million that Lewis's political action committee has received in the past six years.

In January 2006 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Department of Justice complaint against Lewis based on his relationship with Lowery.

One of Lowery's clients was the Brent Wilkes-owned ADCS Inc.

Lewis has close connections to Duke Cunningham and Brent Wilkes.

Although Lewis forcefully denied ever being close to Duke Cunningham, the two sometimes campaigned together and also "worked in tandem on Pentagon funding requests that came before the Appropriations Committee." Lewis claims to have done a formal review of Cunningham's earmarks and activities on the committee, but his office has yet to release the findings of that review.

In July 1999, Lewis and Cunningham led a move to cut funding for the Pentagon's F-22 fighter jet. Funding was restored, though, after the Pentagon acquiesced to Brent Wilkes's request that ADCS Inc. receive an additional $10 million to digitize military documents in the Panama Canal Zone. It appears, then, that Lewis and Cunningham used their clout to Wilkes's benefit. Lewis says there is no connection between the F-22 funding cut and aid for Wilkes.

Lewis threw his support to a project he'd previously criticized around the same time that an interested company threw a fundraiser for him.

According to USA Today, Lewis heard in early-summer 2003 that a New York investment group with a large stake in MCI (formerly WorldCom) was interested in raising funds for his political action committee, Future Leaders PAC. The investment group, Cerberus Capital Management, hosted Lewis at a July 7, 2003 fundraiser that led to Lewis's PAC receiving nearly $133,000 that month alone. A June 2003 House Defense subcommittee vote preserved money for MCI as part of a project to build a secure computer network for the Navy and Marines. Lewis chaired that committee, and despite having previously expressed concern over MCI's involvement in the project, he changed his mind and supported full funding for the program.

Lewis's rise to chair of the House Appropriations Committee in January 2006 owed much to his ability to raise money for other GOP candidates - $407,000 in 2004, and $522,725 in 2003. Nearly a third of that 2004 money was connected to Cerberus; in 2003, nearly a fourth.

Additionally, federal agents were investigating Lewis's use of PAC funds to see whether they had been used for personal expenses.

Lewis tried to steer a defense contractor to hire Lowery.

Former Audre Recognition Systems Inc. engineer Tom Casey said in a NBC Nightly News report that Lewis directed him to hire Lowery to help him gain business from the Pentagon. He also said that Lewis instructed him to set up stock options for Lowery in Canada under someone else's name.

Lewis and Lowery have shared two key staffers, Jeffrey S. Shockey and Letitia White, exemplifying the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street.

Jeffrey S. Shockey has worked for both Lewis and Lowery (first for Lewis, then for Lowery, then back to Lewis, for whom he currently works). Seven of Shockey's former lobbying clients have been served subpoenas in the federal investigation into the ties between Lewis and Lowery. Shockey's wife, Alexandra, has been hired as a subcontractor by Lowery's firm, and she now lobbies congressional staffers on behalf of some of her husband's former clients.

Letitia White ("K Street's queen of earmarks," according to The New York Times) worked for Lewis before joining Lowery's lobbying firm. She owns a house in Washington which is the listed address for a defense-related PAC run by Lewis's step-daughter.

Research by Adrianne Jeffries and Michael Powell

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