Monday, May 15, 2006

Today's Cunningham (et al) News

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that federal prosecutors are seeking reams of documents from several House committees, as well as want to interview a number of Congressional staffers.

This brings up a potential new Porkbusters slogan: "Earmarks - Look What they Did for Duke Cunningham!" (substitute Alan Mollohan, Jerry Lewis, or others, as appropriate).

Justice Signals Wider Probe
May 15, 2006
By John Bresnahan,
Roll Call Staff

Federal prosecutors are seeking to interview at least nine current or former staffers on the House Intelligence, Appropriations and Armed Services committees as they widen their probe into the bribery scheme involving former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), according to House officials.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego is also seeking “tens of thousands of pages” of Congressional documents, some going back to 1997, related to Cunningham and government programs he may have had influence over, the officials said.

The information sought by federal prosecutors signals that the corruption probe that began with Cunningham has now clearly moved beyond the actions taken by the imprisoned former lawmaker to other Members, according to several Congressional sources. Cunningham is currently serving a 100-month sentence in federal prison for bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

The three committees, through the House general counsel’s office, have agreed to cooperate with the prosecutors’ request, although they have raised concerns about the breadth of the document search, which one source suggested could potentially “shut down the committees” because of the time demands involved in assembling all the documents that prosecutors have asked for, as well as the number of staffers sought for interviews.

In addition, a large amount of the material being sought by the investigators relates to highly classified, or “black,” programs. Cunningham served on the Defense subcommittee of the Appropriations panel, and also chaired the subcommittee on terrorism, human intelligence, analysis and counterintelligence on the Intelligence Committee. Both panels have access to such secret programs.

“The original request from [federal prosecutors] was overly broad and onerous,” said a GOP aide familiar with the issue.

...And The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday that the Justice Department has begun looking into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and his interactions with an ex-Member turned lobbyist, former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-Calif.). The U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles is overseeing that portion of the federal probe.

Prosecutors are exploring the relationship between the two men, who served on the Appropriations panel for eight years together before Lowery left Congress in 1992. Specifically, investigators are looking into whether any company or organization was asked to hire Lowery’s lobbying firm before seeking help from Lewis on a federal spending program, as well as the movement of several GOP aides between Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White and Lewis’ staff. Lowery and his clients have steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Lewis while winning tens of millions of dollars in appropriations earmarks.

Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White also lobbied on behalf of Wilkes’ defense company, ADCS Inc., from 1998 to 2000, and then again from 2002 to 2005. The firm originally reported earning $160,000-plus in lobbying fees from ADCS, but in March 2006, after Wilkes was identified as the subject of a federal corruption probe, Copeland Lowery filed amended lobbying disclosure reports indicating that it had been paid more than $340,000 by ADCS during that period, according to documents on file with the Clerk of the House.

Wilkes and his employees, friends, relatives and business partners have donated $60,000 to Lewis’ re-election campaign and leadership political action committee, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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