- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis yesterday insisted he has no knowledge of a Justice Department investigation into his ethical conduct and denied any wrongdoing as Capitol Hill was rife with rumors surrounding the California Republican.

Mr. Lewis was responding to a Los Angeles Times report that federal prosecutors are examining his ties with a lobbyist and disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, another California Republican.

The newspaper reported that subpoenas regarding Mr. Lewis were issued as part of the investigation into Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham, who served on the budget-writing appropriations panel, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

“I have never, under any circumstances, told or suggested to someone seeking federal dollars for a project that they would receive favorable treatment by making campaign donations,” Mr. Lewis said.

He said he has not been contacted regarding any investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles declined to comment.

Democrats seized on the report as the latest example of a “corrupt” Republican Congress.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said he will look at the accusations if asked whether Mr. Lewis should resign as chairman, but he did not elaborate.

The Los Angeles Times cited three government sources familiar with the early-stage investigation who said ties between Mr. Lewis and lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former representative from California, are being examined.

The links include millions of dollars in contracts Mr. Lowery’s clients have received and staffers who have worked for both offices. Cunningham replaced Mr. Lowery in Congress.

Several members of Congress from both parties are under investigation for corruption.

Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and former majority leader, is under indictment and has announced he will resign from the House in June.

Key staffers for Rep. Bob Ney have implicated the Ohio Republican in the bribery scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Last week, a technology executive pleaded guilty to bribing a representative, indicated in court documents as Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat.

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, has been accused of directing $178 million to nonprofits whose leaders donated to his campaigns.

Whispers on the Hill for months suggest more indictments will surface.

“It’s very clear that the wheels of justice are working and they are turning, and I just think at this point the Justice Department ought to continue their work and let the chips fall where they may,” said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

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