According to Roll Call, a combination of internal restrictions on the number of earmarks requested and the current atmosphere around Congress in the wake of the dual Abramoff and Cunningham scandals has led to a reduction in the number of earmarks members are seeking. The key to driving down earmarks has been an internal rule implemented by House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA):
Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) directed each of the cardinals [a term for appropriations subcommittee chairmen – PB] to set limits for their specific subcommittees, with the bulk of the panels setting that ceiling at five requests per lawmaker.
Among those panels allowing more was the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee, which restricted members to 10 requests.
Despite the reductions hard-line conservatives, such as Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), are still unhappy with the process: “Nobody’s happier to see fewer earmark requests this year than me but, with zero accountability, the earmarking process is still ripe for abuse and waste. Rank-and-file Members need the ability to attempt to strike out earmarks that are wasteful or suspicious. Anything short of that is not real reform.”Continue reading
The former peers of convicted Representative Duke Cunningham are revolted by the fact that he created a ‘bribe menu’ that listed earmarks he could get for a contractor alongside the money and favors that he would ask for in return. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, fellow California Republican Darrell Issa, even though he doesn’t “want to see anybody rot in jail for the sake of rotting in jail,” is calling for the maximum10 year sentence because, “I believe that anything less is going to send the wrong message about how … you should treat somebody who betrays the public trust at this level.” Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), both close to Cunningham and the alleged bribers, Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, refused to comment on the bribe menu. Hunter instead attacked the prosecutors saying that they were, “eking out their most damaging evidence … to bolster their position.”Continue reading
The Pentagon is recalling an aide to Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) who was working in apparent violation of House and Department of Defense rules. Lt. Col. Carl Kime worked on Lewis’ staff in an important legislative function, where he had “oversight on requests for earmarked funds in the defense appropriations bill,” while remaining on the payroll of the Defense Department. According to The Hill newspaper, Kime’s “service for Lewis appeared to violate the Members’ Congressional Handbook issued by the Committee for House Administration, which defines a detailee as a ‘non-congressional federal employee assigned to a committee for a period of up to one year.’ The handbook also states that “detailees may not be assigned to a member office” and cites the relevant section of U.S. law: 2 USC Section 72a(f).”Continue reading
Which came first: the lobbyist or the congressional staffer? The answer in the case of Jeffrey Shockey, aide to Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) profiled in Time Magazine, is just as difficult to determine as the original chicken and egg version. Shockey began his career on Capitol Hill working for Rep. Lewis for eight years. He then left his post in 1999 to join a lobbying firm whose chief partner Bill Lowery was a top donor and close friend of Lewis. “Many of his new clients, including municipalities, hospitals and lesser-known universities, were from Lewis's district” and had business before Lewis and the Appropriations Committee. Shockey “helped win at least $150 million in pork for an array of clients,” with the help of earmarks added to appropriations bills. When Lewis took over the Appropriations Committee he brought Shockey back to work for him, while Shockey’s wife went to work for the very lobbying firm that her husband had just left. Shockey received a $600,000 buyout from the Lowery firm and continued to receive payments from the buyout even as he worked for Lewis.Continue reading
The process of earmarking often unites lawmakers across party lines for the purpose of bringing money back to their state and respective districts. The Hill newspaper reports that this bipartisan behavior, rare nowadays on Capitol Hill, could be lost in the wake of earmark reform. The Transportation Bill, which passed the House 412-8, is a symbol of this process, where lawmakers put their pet projects in, and “[exchange] pleasantries on the floor.” In a related story on the pressures of earmark reform the comity of the Republican Conference is being tested. The Washington Times reports that Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and other House Republicans are backing the practice of earmarking while conservative stalwart Jeff Flake (R-AZ) denounces the pushback against reform by stating, “The Empire is striking back.”Continue reading
The former chief of staff to Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) – now a lobbyist – is a master at greasing the wheels to get earmarks, for her clients from the Chairman, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Letitia White’s lobbying firm and their clients have contributed 37 percent of the $1.3 million raised by Lewis’ political action committee over the past six years while she has obtained numerous earmarks for her clients, defense contractors and California municipalities. Congress is eyeing reform of this practice as the federal budget deficit swells to unheard of proportions. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Trent Lott (R-CA); John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK); and Barack Obama (D-IL) all have varying proposals to reform the process. Meanwhile, The Hill newspaper reports that some lawmakers receive earmark requests via e-mail, making the process easier for both parties.Continue reading
House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis’ (R-CA) aide in charge of tracking defense appropriations “is a military officer on the Pentagon’s payroll, an apparent violation of House rules and a possible conflict of interest,” according to The Hill newspaper. Department of Defense regulations state that military personnel can work on committee staffs but not on the personal staff of an individual member. Lewis’ aide, Marine Lt. Col. Michael Kime, has apparently worked for Lewis since 2001 while being on the Pentagon payroll. Congressional watchdogs call Kime’s role a conflict of interest and defense experts state that his position may give the Marines greater leverage over contracts and earmarks in the Appropriations Committee. Lewis has been a target of great scrutiny since his connection to the contractors involved in the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal emerged.Continue reading