I'd been wondering lately about our old friend, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). A year ago, Lewis was at the center of a widening federal investigation into congressional earmarks, lobbying practices, and the revolving door between congressional staff positions and DC lobbying firms. Then Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Debra Yang, whose office was leading the Lewis investigation, stepped down to enter private practice (with the firm representing Lewis); and San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, whose conviction of then-Rep. Duke Cunningham spawned the Lewis probe, was canned in the U.S. Attorneys purge. Since then, things have been awfully quiet (whether that was by design remains to be determined).
Until now. CBS News is reporting about a questionable new Lewis earmark, this one on Capitol Hill itself. According to CBS, Lewis has earmarked $2.4 million since 2004 to Barracks Row, a commercial development on the Hill, just four blocks from a million-dollar home owned by Lewis' wife. With the infusion of federal dollars, property values in the area have been soaring, the network reports. There's also another lobbyist connection:
But CBS News has found another link between Lewis and Barracks Row: Tip Tipton, property owner and director of the redevelopment project. It turns out he's a top Washington lobbyist, and a longtime Lewis friend and donor.
He says Congressman Lewis only has the national interest at heart.
âItâs important that the area surrounding the Capitol look like an area that the United States citizens would be proud to show their neighbors and friends,â Tipton, who is [on] the Barracks Row Board of Directors, said.
Lewis wouldn't talk to us but in a statement said it's "ridiculous" to suggest he supports Barracks Row for any reason other than to help residents and visitors in a once-shabby area.
I missed ol' Jerry. Nice to have him back.