You've always gotta keep an eye on the spouses.
We've spilled some ink in the past couple days on Letitia White, Rep. Jerry Lewis's (R-CA) "gatekeeper" at the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee before she moved over to Bill Lowery's lobby shop. Every indication is that she's at the center of the FBI's investigation of Lewis and Lowery.
Here's another thing that may grab investigators' interest. Shortly after Lewis rose to be the chairman of that subcommitee, Letitia White's husband, up until that point a tobacco industry lobbyist, made a curious professional decision: he began lobbying on defense spending issues.
Richard White was a tobacco man until 2000. In 1998, he worked as a lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute. And in 1999, he opened his own lobbying firm, Richard White Public Affairs Consulting, with a single client: Brown and Williamson Tobacco. The company paid him $50,000 for the work. Then, as now, White ran his consulting firm out of the White's home in Fort Washington, Maryland, a Washington suburb.
But in 2000, one year after Jerry Lewis became chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee (taking Letitia White along with him), Richard White registered to lobby for "defense spending items" on behalf of a lobbyist. It's not clear which of the lobbyist's clients White was working for.
That arrangement continued for the next few years, White receiving between $20,000 and $45,000 annually from the firm, called R.C. Whitner & Associates. From 2000 to 2005, White received $205,000 from the group.
But in 2003, something changed. Richard White began picking up defense contractors as clients - without going through Whitner. That was the same year that his wife Letitia left Lewis to join Lowery's lobbying firm.
Also that year, he signed up Tessera Technologies as a client for an impressive $80,000 annual fee. A couple months earlier, Letitia White was hired by a contractor called Isothermal Systems Research. Why is that significant? It was a sterling example of matrimonial synergy for the two lobbyists. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Isothermal and Tessera were partnering on a defense project that received $4.5 million in earmarks over 2003 and 2004. The Whites were essentially lobbying for the same earmark.
Richard White's client list has continued to grow - last year, he pulled in $280,000 from six clients, all defense contractors. Not bad for a guy working from home.