Have Your Cake, Eat it Too

Rep. Jerry Lewis is the latest member of Congress involved in an investigation of corruption in the congressional earmark process.

 

Lewis' friend, former Rep. Bill Lowery owns a booming lobbying business in California and for the last several years staffers from Lewis' office - notably Letitia White and Jeff Shockey - have been using the Capitol Hill revolving door policy to great effect. Letitia White started out as Lewis's go-to staffer on appropriations which she has parlayed into a successful lobbying career with Lowery's firm, many of whose clients lobby Lewis' committee for earmarks. Thus far, her activities in particular have raised the red flags in the ongoing investigation.

 

Now the heat is being turned up on another player. Jeff Shockey worked for Lewis, went to work for Lowery, then came back to work for Lewis while his wife (herself an ex-Lewis aide) took over several of his lobbying accounts whose clients had business with Lewis. Meanwhile, Lowery's firm gave Shockey a buy-out of $1.9 million upon his departure from the firm supposedly based on the revenue he would have brought in for the firm in 2005, the year he left to work for Lewis. The sticky bit, researched in depth over at Roll Call, is that in 2005 the amount Shockey's clients paid the firm jumped way, way up - from $580,000 to $1.46 million. Read more on the Shockey deal and unfolding investigation over at TPMmuckraker.

 

Hmmm, firms that want to lobby on appropriations up their payments to a firm to pump up the compensation to their former lobbyist at that firm even as he goes back to work at the office of the Chair of the Appropriations Committee. You don't need a magnifying glass to see that conflict of interest. What's perhaps most alarming is that this circle of scandal - while an extreme example - represents a routine practice of bouncing Hill staff to lobby shops and vice versa. So long as Washington continues to reward big money with big access, this kind of thing will continue.