A top aide to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) received almost $2 million last year in a buyout package from his old lobbying firm, which specializes in placing earmarks in annual spending bills and is now under federal investigation.
Attorneys for Jeff Shockey, deputy staff director of the committee, said his buyout from the firm, now known as Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White, met all ethical and legal guidelines applicable to House staffers. They added that Shockey’s current position on the Appropriations Committee staff does not directly involve him in the approval of earmarks for any Members, or for his former clients.
The attorneys revealed the new buyout figures — more than triple the total previously disclosed to the media — in a conference call with reporters Friday morning, releasing the 2005 personal financial disclosure form for Shockey several days before it was required.
Shockey “complied with the letter and spirit of the law,” one lawyer said in the call, which was arranged with reporters under the condition that the attorneys and the one media adviser participating not be named.
A letter to the House ethics committee, dated April 15, 2005, and signed by his lawyers, William Oldaker and William Farah, was released Friday, showing that Shockey spelled out the terms of the separation agreement with the firm, then named Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & Shockey, to the committee, and asked for guidance about whether anything was improper about the three separate payments in 2005, which totaled more $1.9 million.
However, his attorneys said Friday that the partisan rancor that effectively shut down the ethics panel for 18 months may have played role in explaining why they never received a follow-up letter from the committee giving its approval of the arrangement.
Shockey’s personal finances are part of the widening investigation into the links between him, the lobbying firm, Lewis, and Letitia White, another former aide to Lewis who also works at the same firm. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed at least seven of the firm’s clients, seeking information on their interactions with Lewis. The California Republican has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Shockey’s wife is also a former Lewis aide and is currently a lobbyist. Alexandra Shockey runs her own firm, Hillscape Associates, out of office space at Copeland Lowery. Alexandra Shockey registered Copeland Lowery as a lobbying client in February 2005, just weeks after her husband joined the Appropriations Committee. Attorneys for the couple said that Alexandra Shockey does not lobby her husband.
Hillscape initially reported earning less than $20,000 in lobbying fees from Copeland Lowery and another client during the first half of 2005, according to disclosure reports filed last year. However, after media reports about the Shockeys ran in December, Hillscape filed amended disclosure reports in February that showed the company was paid $80,000 by Copeland Lowery from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2005, plus another $40,000 by a second client, itself a California-based lobbying firm. No report is on file from Hillscape for a third client for which it registered to represent.
Jeff Shockey’s financial disclosure firms show that he was highly paid for his lobbying work, netting him far in excess of what the typical K Street lobbyist rakes in.
All told, for an 18-month period in 2004-05, Shockey was paid more than $3.4 million, including the sum of his buyout.
In addition, Shockey was paid more than $140,000 by the Appropriations Committee in 2005, according to House financial records.
Based on the data released by his attorneys, Shockey’s gross revenue at Copeland Lowery jumped from about $1.7 million in 2004 and was projected to reach about $3 million in 2005 if he had stayed there for the full year.
“Certainly he was on a revenue-based incentive package,” said one of his attorneys.
Shockey benefited from a big increase in payments made by his former clients to Copeland Lowery after he left the firm in January 2005 and joined the Appropriations Committee staff. Earlier in his career, Shockey previously worked for Lewis from 1991 to 1999.
On a financial disclosure form filed by Shockey when he assumed the role of deputy chief of staff at Appropriations, he listed 49 lobbying clients, including dozens of California municipalities, as well as some defense contractors.
Research by Roll Call found that many of these clients boosted the fees paid to Copeland Lowery in 2005, in some cases doubling the amount paid in the previous years.
Typical of this pattern was Anteon Corp., a defense contractor located in Fairfax, Va. Shockey and Copeland Lowery registered to lobby for Anteon in Dec. 2002. Anteon never paid Copeland Lowery more than $10,000 for lobbying during the six-month reporting periods covering all of 2003 and the first half of 2004, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Clerk of the House.
But in the second half of 2004, when Lewis was embroiled in a three-way battle to become chairman of the Appropriations panel, Anteon reported spending $40,000 on lobbying. With Shockey now working for the committee, Anteon paid Copeland Lowery $160,000 for all of 2005 — more than tripling the fees from the previous year.
San Bernadino County, a Copeland Lowery client that has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury in the Lewis probe, paid the firm less than $10,000 in the first half of 2004. But the county’s lobbying fees jumped to $60,000 in the second half of that year and rose to $100,000 during the first half of 2005. Copeland Lowery received another $60,000 for the second half of last year from the county.
The Cal State University San Bernadino Foundation paid Copeland Lowery $80,000 in 2004. That total increased to $120,000 in 2005. The foundation has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury as well, its attorney said recently.
A spokesman for Copeland Lowery did not address the question of whether increased payments to the firm in 2005 from Shockey’s former clients were in any way related to his position on the Appropriations panel.
“The amount of the practice buyout of Mr. Shockey was directly derived from the revenue he was responsible for in 2004,” said Patrick Dorton, the spokesman. Dorton declined to comment further.
An Appropriations Committee source said that Shockey does no work on earmarks, or “Member projects” at the panel refers to them, and thus could not have benefitted his former clients through his position on the panel.
“He is not involved in the decision-making process on Member projects,” said the staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not in Jeff’s job description.”
This staffer said Shockey mainly acted as a liaison for Appropriations to the House leadership, to other committees and to Democrats on the panel, among other duties. Lewis and Shockey decided that he would have no role in handling earmarks at the time Shockey joined the committee staff, and Lewis himself wrote to the ethics committee about Shockey’s buyout package at Copeland Lowery.
Such actions were “specifically done because of [Shockey’s] previous life,” the staffer said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.