"I played by their rules," the Times quotes Wilkes as saying of Lewis and Lowery, "and I played to win."
In his comments to the Times, Wilkes paints the impression that Lowery, along with Lewis and other appropriators, worked an extortion racket: they forced businesspeople like Wilkes to pay campaign contributions and lobbying fees in exchange for the contracts.
His lawyer, Nancy Luque, is quoted saying that "prosecutors should be looking at the entire [appropriations] committee," not just Duke.
That seems to be the framework for his defense -- one he appears likely to deploy sooner rather than later, since a grand jury is reportedly in the process of weighing evidence and deciding whether to indict him. Unfortunately, it skirts several key areas: first, his arrangements with Duke (which Cunningham calls a bribe, but which Wilkes didn't talk about); second, his supposed use of prostitutes as favors for Duke and possibly others (Wilkes' lawyers have, in the past, flatly denied these allegations, but in the Times Wilkes is strangely silent on the topic); and third, the extent -- and legality -- of his involvements with Mitchell Wade.
Why did Wilkes talk now? And why did he point the finger at Lewis and Lowery? It's not clear. Perhaps he was trying out a defense. Perhaps he was upset at what he has perceived to be a lack of support from the two men during these last months, as federal prosecutors and the press have climbed all over Wilkes and his dealings like a kindergarten class on a substitute teacher. Maybe he was feeling frustrated at the slow-mounting pressure of the federal inquiry, and thought this was a way to get his story out.
For the moment, anyway it's a little hard to find out: Wilkes doesn't take phone calls, and his lawyer, Nancy Luque, is on vacation until mid-August.