NYT: Feds Investigating Lewis “Gatekeeper,” “Queen of Earmarks”

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More details on the Lewis investigation.

Last week, Justin reported on Rep. Jerry Lewis’s (R-CA) top aide at the House Appropriations Committee, Letitia White. The FBI’s investigation of Lewis is reportedly revolving around Lewis’ very close ties to lobbyist Bill Lowery, and Letitia White was one of a few aides who moved from Lewis’s office to Lowery’s. As Justin pointed out, she was flown to Italy for a 10-day all-expenses-paid trip by a defense contractor while with Lewis; a couple months thereafter, she left the Hill and registered to lobby for the company with Lowery’s firm.

White was about as powerful as an aide can be on Capitol Hill. And investigators are interested. As we noted yesterday, the FBI recently subpoenaed San Bernadino County, a client of Lowery’s firm. White was one of their lobbyists.

And The New York Times reports that “prosecutors are looking into” White’s ties to Lewis and Lowery.

According to the Times, White had a real hold on Lewis. And she got all sorts of special attention from lobbyists while she worked with him, including Brent “Boom shaka laka” Wilkes and Lowery:

As the top aide representing Mr. Lewis’s office on the appropriations committee, Ms. White was responsible for presenting earmark requests from him and other House members to the staff members who wrote the bills, and she sometimes acted as a gatekeeper to Mr. Lewis for those seeking money. She found herself fielding calls from scores of lawmakers and lobbyists, all seeking money for favored hospitals or military contractors. Mr. Cunningham was among the many members presenting earmark requests to her and the committee.

And Brent R. Wilkes, one of the contractors said to have bribed Mr. Cunningham, as well as Mr. Lowery, who lobbied for Mr. Wilkes, both lavished Ms. White with attention. They often bought her dinners and bottles of wine, two former associates of Mr. Wilkes recalled, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the federal investigation. “She was the queen bee,” one said. Other lobbyists all over Washington also sought to cozy up to Ms. White because of her position on the committee staff.

By 1999, when Mr. Lewis had assumed control of the $300 billion defense subcommittee, Ms. White’s influence with him had become a subject of some discussion on K Street. A small military contractor, Recon/Optical, which benefited from Mr. Lewis’s earmarks, filed a lawsuit charging, among other things, that an official of Lockheed Martin had asserted that Ms. White “controls” Mr. Lewis and that a friend of hers who lobbied for Recon had swayed her on its behalf. The suit said the Lockheed official had threatened to withhold certain payments unless Recon “shuts up” Ms. White.