Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Speaking of Ethics

Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Department of Justice against Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA, 41st CD), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

According to the public letter posted on CREW's website:
The complaint asks the Attorney General to have the Public Integrity Section initiate an investigation into the relationship between Rep. Lewis and lobbyist Bill Lowery and Mr. Lowery’s firm, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White.

A recent story in the San Diego Union-Tribune asserts that Rep. Lewis, as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for Mr. Lowery’s clients. In apparent return, Mr. Lowery, his partners, and his firm’s clients have donated 37% of the $1.3 million that Rep. Lewis’s political action committee has received over the past six years.

In addition, at least one staffer has moved back and forth between Rep. Lewis’s and Mr. Lowery’s offices: Jeffrey Shockey left Rep. Lewis’s employ in 1999 after which he joined Mr. Lowery’s lobbying firm. He remained with the firm until 2005, when he left to return to work for Rep. Lewis. When he left, Mr. Lowery’s firm hired Mr. Shockey’s wife, Alexandra, to represent some of her husband’s old clients, with the result that on behalf of her husband’s former partners, she now lobbies staffers who work for her husband.

CREW is seeking a Department of Justice investigation, in part, because the House Ethics Committee has abdicated its responsibility to police and investigate the conduct of Members of the House of Representatives, leaving only the Department of Justice to stand between the integrity of Congress and the rule of cronyism and opportunism.

CREW letter to Attorney General Gonzales (pdf format).

Democrat Louie Contreras is challenging Lewis in the 2006 41st Congressional District election. (The 41st CD covers most of San Bernardino County.)

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