Dorton said White, before leaving the Hill, received oral and written communication from ethics giving her clearance to lobby immediately upon her departure.
White’s lawyers declined to release that letter or the letter regarding her negotiations with prospective clients. The ’03 Defense spending bill cleared Congress by mid-October 2002.
They declined to comment on when she began negotiating to represent General Atomics, Trident and the other seven companies she signed up soon after leaving Lewis’ staff.
For all of 2003, White signed up 16 new clients for Copeland Lowery, predominantly relying on defense contractors, and by the end of 2004 her client roster had grown to 22. She brought in at least $670,000 in fees from her new clients in 2003, and more than doubled that total in 2004, according to lobbying disclosure records.
And White’s clients got large payouts from the subcommittee then overseen by her former boss.
In her first year lobbying, White’s clients received at least $22 million in earmarks from the Defense appropriations measure covering fiscal year 2004. General Atomics received another $3 million for anti-terror work at the Statue of Liberty and and $15.3 million for its aeronautical subsidiary to work on making un-manned aircraft, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
It’s unclear if any of White’s defense industry clients have been subpoenaed. At least nine municipal-based clients of Jeff Shockey — who left Copeland Lowery in January 2005 to return to the Appropriations Committee for Lewis — have received federal grand jury subpoenas.
White was a long-standing employee of Lewis’, whose husband, Richard White, shifted his lobbying practice into defense work in 1999. She’s been described in various media reports as a close ally to the chairman.
As a lobbyist, White and her clients poured donations into Lewis, both to his political action committee and his re-election campaign committee. All told, Copeland Lowery lobbyists, their family members and their clients accounted for 25 percent of the more than $800,000 Lewis raised in 2003 and 2004 for his Future Leaders PAC, which he used to dole out to GOP candidates and committees in his successful campaign to become the full chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
A key factor in the pay cut that allowed White to begin immediately lobbying was payments from Lewis’ personal office, which was overseen by Willis, Lewis’ wife and chief of staff.
White’s pay from Appropriations alone never put her above the 75 percent mark of a Member’s pay, growing at a steady rate from $99,000 in 1999 to almost $109,000 in 2002, records show. But her payments from the personal office put her into the territory that would have required her to observe the one-year lobbying ban.
That salary from the personal office generally included a large fourth-quarter payout, which appears to have been a bonus. For example, in 2001 White received more than $19,000 from the personal office, with more than $8,600 of that coming in the final three months of the year.
In 2002, those payments from the personal office dropped to just $4,700, a decrease that made it possible for her final 11 months on staff to come in at a pay level that allowed her to lobby Lewis in 2003.
She received just $875 from the personal office in her final three months on staff.