"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Group seeks criminal probe of GOP lawmaker
Yahoo News/USA Today
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
January 20, 2006

A liberal watchdog group called Thursday for a criminal investigation of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund's political contributions to a California congressman.

The Campaign for a Cleaner Congress (CCC) wrote the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section asking for a bribery probe of Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The group cited a report in Thursday's USA TODAY that the hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, helped raise nearly $133,000 for Lewis' political action committee in 2003 as Lewis shepherded through the House a defense spending bill preserving funding for a Navy project critical to the firm.

A similar group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asked for a federal criminal probe of Lewis on Jan. 9, citing his ties to lobbyist and former representative Bill Lowery. A former Lewis staffer is a lobbyist at Lowery's firm, which counts many top defense contractors among its clients.

Lewis issued a statement Thursday repeating his assertion that he never discussed the Navy contract with Cerberus executives or their representatives. He said he opposed a proposed $160 million cut in the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program because the Navy said it had fixed the system's problems.

"It is absolutely and unequivocally false to suggest that any decision on funding for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet was in any way based on a lobbyist's request, or as a favor to someone who was donating campaign funds," Lewis said.

Cerberus held a fundraising dinner for Lewis' political action committee in July 2003, less than two months after the House Armed Services Committee voted to cut the project's budget. At the time, Lewis headed the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, which handles the annual Pentagon spending bill.

Lewis' committee preserved the $1.6 billion the Pentagon requested for the computer project, as did the final defense spending bill Lewis helped shape in a House-Senate committee.

Cerberus owns a subcontractor on the project, Netco Government Services, which says it expects to take in nearly $1 billion from the program. Cerberus also paid more than $140 million for a large stake in MCI, another major subcontractor on the project.

Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to comment. Cerberus did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

CCC spokesman Mike Casey said the Justice Department should look into whether Cerberus' donations influenced Lewis. Only the department, Casey said, "has the resources to find out how Cerberus approached Congressman Lewis, what was said and what was promised."

The Justice Dept. approves blatant violations of law in the Bush White House. Does anyone think they care about bribery?