Vanity Fair reports on the ongoing Cunningham investigation and where it will go next. The article notes that Cunningham was seeking bribes days before he pled guilty; Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor at the center of the investigation, made connections in Washington by introducing congressmen to women in Honduras; Bill Lowery, the former congressman and current lobbyist embroiled in the scandal, introduced Cunningham to Wilkes. So who goes next in the investigation: Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, [sw: Katherine Harris] (R-Fla.), Wilkes, Lowery, or Rep. [sw: Virgil Goode] (R-Va.)?Continue reading
TPM Muckraker is all over the latest, and future, developments in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. Justin Rood reports that the clients of the lobbying firm in the middle of the scandal, Copeland Lowery, continued to donate to Lewis' campaign committee and PAC "just days after news surfaced of a federal investigation into" Lewis' connection to the firm. All of the contributing clients happen to be defense contractors, likely seeking an earmark or two. Rood asks if any of these contractors may be the next recipient of a subpoena in this widening investigation. (Read More...)Continue reading
The firm at the center of the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) scandal apparently failed to report $2 million in lobbying fees, according to TPM Muckraker.
Now a review of the firm's reporting shows that, just weeks before Copeland Lowery's status as a target of the investigation became publicly known, the firm filed more than 90 revised disclosures to Congress, alerting officials that they had misreported income from dozens of clients from 1998 to 2005. Over three-quarters of the corrections disclosed previously unreported income totalling approximately $2 million; others corrected over-reported income of roughly $500,000.Justin Rood points out that the revisions came in only a few key clients. One of those clients is ADCS, the defense contractor at the center of the Duke Cunningham bribery case:
From these four key clients, Copeland Lowery failed to report ... - at least $260,000 from ADCS, the San Diego-based defense contractor owned by accused briber Wilkes; - at least $270,000 from the San Diego-based Foundation for the Improvement of Math and Science Education; - at least $210,000 from the Rochester Institute of Technology; - at least $210,000 from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).Lowery's lobbying firm is "in serious legal jeopardy" according to money in politics expert and Washington lawyer Brett Kappell. Rood lays out a possible outcome, "The likely charge -- making a false statement, a felony -- has been used by prosecutors in recent corruption investigations to win plea bargains." Continue reading
- The San Bernardino Sun reports on the release of documents in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. In the documents Lewis' wife, Arlene Willis, recommends the lobbying firm at the center of the investigation, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, to San Bernardino County.
- The San Diego Union-Tribune traces the arc of success for defense contractors that have hired the Lowery law firm to lobby Appropriations Chair [sw: Jerry Lewis]. Orincon, a software engineering company, hired Bill Lowery in the late 1990s and, through the earmarking of funds by Lowery's friend Lewis, saw their "growth curve turned sharply upward." Daniel Alspach, the head of Orincon, and "Lowery would visit Lewis' office, meeting with Letitia White and sometimes with Lewis himself". From the mid-1990s to 2003 Orincon's sales, "heavily dependent on federal contracts," shot from $10 million to $52 million. When Alspach eventually sold his company to Lockheed in 2003 Lowery cashed out too having collected thousands of shares in the company which he lobbied for. Trident Systems, Inc. follows a simliar path having found success after hiring Lowery lobbyist Letitia White to collect earmarks from Lewis. White and Trident owner Nicholas Karangelen own a DC townhouse together which serves as the mailing address for Karangelen's Small Biz Tech PAC, which happens to be run by Lewis' stepdaughter. White also has deal with Trident that seems to similar to Lowery's receipt of shares in Orincon. Karangelen "has arranged to pay [White] a bonus based on the company's profitability."
- The Washington Post reports that conservative power house Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform "served as a "conduit" for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a small cut, e-mails show." Abramoff also used, with the acquiesance of the heads of the organization, numerous other non-profits associated with the conservative movement to funnel money, hiding his activities, in his illegal schemes. These organizations included the National Center for Public Policy Research, headed by Amy Ridenour and the Council of Republican Environmental Advocacy, headed by Italia Federici. Continue reading
- The print media in Illinois continues to run with [sw: Dennis Hastert]'s land deal, a story that Bill Allison started here at Sunlight. The Chicago Tribune ran a big article over the weekend that included denials of wrongdoing by Hastert and his partners that centered around the incorrect distance of 5.5 miles from the proposed freeway to the land (maps show that the distance is between 2.5 and 3 miles, a distance that Hastert's partner Dallas Ingemunson confirms). The key point in the Trib article comes towards the end where we learn that Hastert has purchased 126 acres in Kendall County with the same business partners. Looks like he intends on receiving continued profits from the federal projects that he is pushing.
- At least 90 former Homeland Security officials from DHS and the White House's Office of Homeland Security left their government jobs to earn millions as lobbyists, executives, and consultants for companies seeking funds from these agencies, according to the New York Times.
- The Department of Homeland Security found the missing letter that [sw: Duke Cunningham] sent to urge the issuance of a contract to Shirlington Limousines. Defense contractor Mitchell Wade's plea agreement contained allegations that Shirlington was hired by Brent Wilkes, alleged Cunningham briber, to ferry prostitutes to the now jailed congressman as payment for his earmarking services. A grand jury is investigating Shirlington's connections to the Cunningham case and their government contracts.
- The lobbying firm at the center of the ethics cloud surrounding Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) is breaking up, according to the San Bernardino Sun. The two Democrats who are partners at the firm are bolting due to the investigations into two of the three Republican partners. No more shall we refer to the firm as Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. The firm will now be referred to as Lowery Denton & White. Soon it will probably be called Denton.
Paul Kiel asks, "who's ever gotten a $2 million severance package -- for quitting?" Justin Rood tells us that Jeffrey Shockey, a serial revolving door spinner, received $1.9 million in severance payments from the lobbying firm of Bill Lowery when he quit to go back to work for his previous employer, [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). Not to be cynical, but do we really believe that that $2 million was to thank Shockey for his previous work for the firm or was it intended to pay for the work he was about to do for the firm?Continue reading
If I was Rep. [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) that's what I'd be. Today the Lewis case has officially became a serious matter. After the revelations of Lewis' step-daughter's work for the Small Biz Tech PAC, whose offices reside in a house co-owned by a recipient of Lewis' earmarks and a former aide to Lewis turned lobbyist, and the NBC News revelations about Audre, Inc. Lewis looks set for a busy summer of fundraising, not for an election, but for a legal expense fund. Now Roll Call, the San Diego Union Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times bring us new information about the Lewis case. First let's start with the Roll Call piece:
In one of the clearest signs yet that Lewis is himself under the investigative microscope, the FBI retrieved the chairman’s financial records late last month even as federal prosecutors in Southern California were issuing a series of subpoenas to towns and counties in his Congressional district, all of which were represented at one time or another in lobbying activities by a current or former Lewis staffer. ... The investigators are in particular examining the relationship between Lewis and a lobbying firm he enjoys a very close relationship with, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton and White. The records search in the Legislative Resources Center in Cannon was the latest sign of that, as the FBI examined the records of Jeff Shockey and Letitia White.The FBI is also searching through the financial disclosure forms of Lewis' wife, Arlene Willis, who works as his chief of staff in his personal office. The Los Angeles Times tells us that Letitia White is at the center of the allegations made by Tom Casey, the head of Audre, Inc.
Casey said he had told investigators that in 1993, Lewis' top appropriations aide, White, escorted him and Wilkes to a basement room in the Capitol where House Appropriations Committee staffers drafted legislation. There, according to Casey, he was seated in front of a word processor and was asked to type a paragraph into the defense bill that would be so specific that it would limit competition. ... The final bill included much of the language Casey wrote, although the earmark was slashed to $14 million, he said.And the kicker to the Audre earmark deal comes at the end of the Times piece:
The obscure trade journal also uncovered in financial disclosure reports that White, then Lewis' aide, had bought stock in Audre on Nov. 3, 1993, one week before the passage of the final bill.Lewis is another example of the power of K Street melded into Congress. Just like Jack Abramoff, Mitchell Wade, and Brent Wilkes the Bill Lowery-Letitia White-Jerry Lewis connection showcases how Congress and K Street have corrupted each other by combining their operations. When lobbyists and defense contractors are writing language into bills the public interest is not being served. When a member of Congress receives over ONE THIRD of his campaign contributions from one lobbying firm and their clients, as Lewis has, then that member will not be serving the public interest. What we have here is a system that has been created by certain members and certain lobbyists that subverts democracy and public participation in government while abusing institutions and the First Amendment rights to give money to a candidate and to lobby Congress. Continue reading
Last night NBC News reported that the CEO of Audre, Inc. was told by Rep. [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) that he needed to pony up campaign contributions to members and that he hire Lewis' friend Bill Lowery as a lobbyist and provide Lowery with stock options before he could get federally earmarked money for his business.
In an exclusive interview, Casey tells NBC News that after he made campaign contributions to House members of both parties, Lewis informed him the Pentagon would get $14 million for the testing, and that Casey even could write the language. Lisa Myers: You were allowed to write language for an appropriations bill yourself? Casey: Yes, I did. That was Congressman Lewis' suggestion. Casey says Lewis repeatedly urged him to hire a lobbyist, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lowery, Lewis' close friend, and when that didn't happen, pressed for another favor. Casey: Congressman Lewis asked me to set up stock options for Bill Lowery in our company. Casey says Lewis suggested he issue the stock options in Canada — in someone else's name. Myers: Did you view it as an effort to hide what was really going on? Casey: It was intended to conceal his participation, yes.As Justin Rood notes, Casey started the contracting career of Brent Wilkes at Audre, Inc. Wilkes is said to have aggressively urged Casey to spend more money on lobbying and campaign contributions as a means to gain the support of members. Wilkes eventually became fed up with Casey and jumped ship to start his own contracting business, ADCS, Inc. Continue reading
This is how it always starts. A lawmaker is said to be under investigation and then a lobbyist connected to that legislator has their clients subpoenaed. Then it snowballs. In this case the lawmaker is the powerful Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA), the lobbyist is actually three lobbyists, Bill Lowery, Jeffrey Shockey, and Letitia White, and there are four clients that have been subpoenaed. Last week two of the subpoenaed clients were revealed to be the City of Redlands and San Bernadino County. Today, Roll Call reports that Cal State University San Bernadino and Riverside County, California were both issued subpoenas as well. Saturday's New York Times ran an article profiling Letitia White, known as the "Queen of Earmarks". Her story is the classic story of the revolving door. She began as a receptionist for Rep. Lewis and worked her way up to being his gatekeeper, controlling access to him from members and lobbyists seeking earmarks. She then cashed in her connections for millions of dollars when she joined the lobbying firm of Lewis friend Bill Lowery. Today's Roll Call story states that federal investigators are looking closely at the actions of Jeffrey Shockey. Shockey is another graduate of that official lobbying university known as the United States Congress. Shockey, like White, worked for Lewis and then left to work for Lowery as a lobbyist. Unlike White, Shockey decided to come back to work for Lewis when the congressman took the Appropriations Chair. Perhaps Shockey needed another degree, or perhaps he's just a switch hitter. Either way his move back to the Hill is cause for worry considering that Lowery's law firm gave him a $600,000 severance package and hired his wife as a lobbyist as soon as he left. This is just the beginning for this tale of Congressional ethics. Since the Pulitzer Prize was bestowed onto the great investigative work of the San Diego Union-Tribune in uncovering Duke Cunningham's corruption and the Washington Post digging into Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay more newspapers will be intent on pursuing these corruption stories. The New York Times story indicates that the national media is intent on paying attention to the story. The local paper in this story is the San Bernadino Sun, which put seven reporters on the story last week. Consider this story on low, but increasing, heat.Continue reading
- The Associated Press has more information on the subpoena issued to San Bernadino County in relation to their lobbying contract with Bill Lowery, a close ally of Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). The subpoena "asked for all records of the county's correspondence with Lewis and his staff and with the lobbying firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White, which employs former California Republican congressman Bill Lowery". The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin is reporting that Redlands city has been issued a subpoena as well. A spokesman for Lowery's law firm stated, "This work was bread and butter, run of the mill, routine appropriations. ... This kind of work happens in Washington every day, every month and every year on behalf of municipalities."
- Mother Jones has an interesting article tracing the history of Cunningham-Wilkes scandal figures Brent Wilkes and K. Dusty Foggo. It just so happens that a certain Bill Lowery pops up in the article.
San Diego Representative Bill Lowery, for example, first elected to the House in 1980 at the tender age of thirty-three, traveled in the Foggo and Wilkes Honduran road show, part of a Republican task force organized to help sell Reagan's Contra war against the Sandinistas to a skeptical Congress and public. After leaving office, Lowery, who has floated around the edges of every Republican scandal from the Savings and Loan collapse of the 1980s to the recent Jack Abramoff lobbying case, and is now reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department, went on to become a top lobbyist, skilled in the art of "earmarking."
- Rep. [sw: John Doolittle] (R-CA) is in a tight spot this year, according to Bloomberg. The northern California congressman is caught between two of the biggest congressional scandals in history as he has acknowledged friendships with both Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes. Doolittle vehemently denies any charges of wrong doing but he is "one of at least four members of Congress whom prosecutors have focused on in their questions to Abramoff".