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May 11, 2006
Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis [ed.'s note: despite the title of our blog entry, this is not the famous comedian Jerry Lewis who hosts telethons to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association] , the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.
The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said.
The government is looking into the connection between Lewis and his longtime friend Bill Lowery, the sources said. Lowery, a lobbyist, is a former congressman from San Diego.
The probe focuses on what one source said was an unusually close relationship between Lewis and Lowery, who served on the House Appropriations Committee together from 1985 to 1993.
Shortly after leaving Congress, Lowery founded Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, a Washington lobbying firm whose clients include Brent R. Wilkes, a defense contractor who is the focus of a separate probe in San Diego.
Investigators are said to be particularly interested in the intermingling of Lewis' and Lowery's staffs and whether it led to favorable treatment for Lowery's clients in securing government contracts.
Jeff Shockey, a key Lewis staffer, went to work for Lowery as a lobbyist in 1999 and then returned to Lewis' staff last year. According to a source familiar with the investigation, Shockey received $600,000 in severance payments from Lowery's firm before returning to Lewis to become the deputy staff director for the House Appropriations Committee � with an annual salary of $170,000.
"He is now the gatekeeper for more than $850 billion," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, referring to the Appropriations Committee's role in disbursing government funds.
In 2003, another key Lewis aide, Letitia White, became a lobbyist for Lowery.
Director of Investigations, POGO
At the time of publication, Nick Schwellenbach was Director of Investigations for the Project On Government Oversight.
Authors: Nick Schwellenbach
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This Land is Our Land
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) raises this important issue in our latest podcast. POGO investigator Mia Steinle talks about the woefully outdated royalty programs for the mining and drilling of natural resources on public lands.