Another GOP Congressman Under Investigation

May 11, 2006

From The LA Times:

Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said.

The investigation is part of an expanding federal probe stemming from Cunningham's conviction for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from defense contractors, according to the three sources.

It is not clear where the investigation is headed or what evidence the government has. But the probe suggests that investigators are looking past Cunningham to other legislators and, perhaps, the "earmarking" system that members of Congress use to allocate funds.

Lewis said Wednesday that he was not aware of any investigation, had not been contacted by any investigator and did not know why he would be investigated.

"For goodness sake, why would they be doing that?" Lewis asked.

The government is looking into the connection between Lewis and his longtime friend Bill Lowery, the sources said. Lowery, a lobbyist, is a former congressman from San Diego.

As chairman of the Appropriations panel, Lewis has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts for many of Lowery's clients, one of the sources said.

Lewis said he knew Lowery well, having spent 12 years in Congress with him, but denied favoring earmarks for Lowery's clients.

"Absolutely not," Lewis said. He said all the earmarks he authorized benefited "my constituents and my people." He said he was particularly proud of helping fund programs such as the cancer treatment center at Loma Linda University, a client of Lowery's. "That would never have been accomplished without an earmark," he said.

The Lewis investigation is in the early stages and has not been presented to a grand jury, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were either involved in the probe or were not authorized to speak about ongoing investigations.

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the office of U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang, said that as a matter of policy he could not confirm or deny any investigation it might be conducting.

The probe focuses on what one source said was an unusually close relationship between Lewis and Lowery, who served on the House Appropriations Committee together from 1985 to 1993.

Shortly after leaving Congress, Lowery founded Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, a Washington lobbying firm whose clients include Brent R. Wilkes, a defense contractor who is the focus of a separate probe in San Diego.

Wilkes has been identified by his lawyer as the unindicted "co-conspirator No. 1" in the Cunningham corruption case.

In that case, Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from "co-conspirator No. 1" and his business associate, Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham. Cunningham and Wade are cooperating with federal investigators.

Wilkes and his companies have given Lewis at least $60,000 in campaign contributions over the years, making them among the lawmaker's largest contributors.

At the same time, Wilkes has paid Lowery's firm more than $160,000 in lobbying fees.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan research organization, Lewis has earmarked at least $70 million in federal funds for a mapping software company in Redlands. The company, Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc., is one of Lowery's largest clients and has paid more than $320,000 in lobbying fees, according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity.

Investigators are said to be particularly interested in the intermingling of Lewis' and Lowery's staffs and whether it led to favorable treatment for Lowery's clients in securing government contracts.

Advertisements

CIA Nominee Hayden Linked to MZM

May 9, 2006

From The TPM Muckraker:

While director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden contracted the services of a top executive at the company at the center of the Cunningham bribery scandal, according to two former employees of the company.

Hayden, President Bush's pick to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA, contracted with MZM Inc. for the services of Lt. Gen. James C. King, then a senior vice president of the company, the sources say. MZM was owned and operated by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with $1.4 million in money and gifts. Wade has also reportedly told investigators he helped arrange for prostitutes to entertain the disgraced lawmaker, and he continues to cooperate with a federal inquiry into the matter.

King has not been implicated in the growing scandal around Wade's illegal activities. However, federal records show he contributed to some of Wade's favored lawmakers, including $6000 to Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and $4000 to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).

Before joining MZM in December 2001, King served under Hayden as the NSA's associate deputy director for operations, and as head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

King worked at NSA Headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, in 2004 and 2005, both sources told me. "King was out there working on same floor as Hayden," one former employee with firsthand knowledge of the arrangement said. "He was doing special projects for Hayden as an MZM employee." Neither former employee knew details of King's work for Hayden; one said he thought he was doing "special projects" for the director, while the other speculated it was "high-ranking advisory work."

The NSA did not immediately respond to my request for comment. Hayden left the NSA in April 2005 to take the post of Deputy Director of National Intelligence. The DNI office referred my call on the matter to the NSA.

As an MZM employee, King was involved in a number of controversial projects. In 2002, he was a key adviser to the team creating CIFA, the Pentagon's domestic surveillance operation. In 2004, he was one of three MZM staffers who worked on the White House Robb-Silberman Commission, which recommended expanding CIFA's powers.

NSA is home to its own controversial project, of course — the post-9/11 warrantless domestic wiretapping operation known as the "terrorist surveillance program." There is no indication that King has been involved in that project.

"I don't see anything nefarious" about King's work for Hayden, one employee told me, although he conceded he did not know what projects King worked on. "I think Hayden needed help."

King became president of MZM when Wade left the company in June 2005, following revelations he bribed Cunningham to win lucrative federal contracts. The company has since been sold and renamed Athena Innovative Solutions. It did not return my call for comment.