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Justice Signals Wider Probe

The Justice Department is investigating whether Wilkes provided Cunningham, and possibly other government officials, with prostitutes, limousines and hotel suites, according to media reports. Mitchell Wade, another defense contractor, has already pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham and is cooperating with DOJ.

And The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday that the Justice Department has begun looking into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and his interactions with an ex-Member turned lobbyist, former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-Calif.). The U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles is overseeing that portion of the federal probe.

Prosecutors are exploring the relationship between the two men, who served on the Appropriations panel for eight years together before Lowery left Congress in 1992. Specifically, investigators are looking into whether any company or organization was asked to hire Lowery’s lobbying firm before seeking help from Lewis on a federal spending program, as well as the movement of several GOP aides between Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White and Lewis’ staff. Lowery and his clients have steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Lewis while winning tens of millions of dollars in appropriations earmarks.

Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White also lobbied on behalf of Wilkes’ defense company, ADCS Inc., from 1998 to 2000, and then again from 2002 to 2005. The firm originally reported earning $160,000-plus in lobbying fees from ADCS, but in March 2006, after Wilkes was identified as the subject of a federal corruption probe, Copeland Lowery filed amended lobbying disclosure reports indicating that it had been paid more than $340,000 by ADCS during that period, according to documents on file with the Clerk of the House.

Wilkes and his employees, friends, relatives and business partners have donated $60,000 to Lewis’ re-election campaign and leadership political action committee, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Lewis has denied any link with illegal or improper behavior, and his office said he has not been contacted by any federal authorities seeking information on him or his relationship with Lowery or other individuals.

“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. If I learned that anyone on my staff made such a suggestion, they would no longer be working for me,” Lewis said in a statement released by his office on Thursday.

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