They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

With Scandal Lobby Firm, You Can Always Get What You Want

University records show that the school has paid $702,500 to the firm since August of 1999. In return, the school has won a whopping $67.2 million in earmarks during that time, according to firm records and a tally by Taxpayers for Common Sense. It's no surprise that most of that money came from defense projects; Rep. Lewis headed up the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee before rising to committee chair in 2005.

But perhaps even more impressive than the school's total tally is its consistent record of achievement. A document sent by a lobbyist at Copeland Lowery to a university representative shows that the school got virtually everything it asked for.

Normally, bidders for earmarks can only hope of winning about one out of every three of four earmarks requested, said Ashdown.

After reviewing the document, a source who has followed the appropriations process closely told me that "any institution that got multiple earmarks in a single appropriation bill year after year -- often at or close to the level they requested and in some instances, more than they requested -- did extraordinarily well by virtually any standard."

Although the school has had a near perfect record bagging earmarks, there is evidence that the school tempered their appetite. "We do need to limit our requests to avoid the appearance of being too greedy," Jeff Shockey, then a lobbyist with Copeland Lowery (and also a Cal State San Bernardino alum), counseled in a memo to the school's president.

In response to TPMmuckraker's questions about the school's record achieving earmarks, CSU-SB spokesman Sid Robinson said that "it would not be fair or reasonable to attribute the federal appropriations the university has received to Copeland Lowery. The Foundation at CSU-SB has not received federal appropriations exclusively because of a lobbying firm."

But Lewis himself has indicated otherwise. In an interview with Jerry Kammer of Copley News Service, who first reported on the school's relationship with Copeland Lowery, Lewis said that the school "didn't know how to put together a proposal that logically fit into the mix in the Appropriations Committee" before retaining Jeff Shockey of Copeland Lowery.

Much of the attention on Copeland Lowery has centered on municipal clients of the firm (cities, counties, and universities), many of which, like CSU-SB, were in Lewis' district.

The clients, in effect, paid Copeland Lowery for help in getting earmarks from their own congressman, who now heads the House Appropriations Committee. A number of these municipalities have been subpoenaed by federal investigators probing Lewis' ties to Copeland Lowery.

Robinson said that the school does plan to continue its contract through December with Copeland Lowery, which split into two separate firms after news of the investigation broke. The school now works with the Republican half of the firm, a partnership between Bill Lowery, Jean Denton, and Letitia White called Innovative Federal Strategies. He said the school has not been contacted by prosecutors after the subpoena.