Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Are a Bit Opaque in Filings

Posted September 15, 2009 at 6:11pm

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) has an unusual approach to filing his annual financial disclosure forms: Despite rules requiring Members of Congress to disclose their spouses’ employers, Lewis never mentions on his form that his wife is on his Congressional payroll.

Instead, Lewis merely submits — in addition to his disclosure form — the four-page disclosure form of Arlene Willis, his wife and chief of staff, who earns enough to be required by law to also file a disclosure form.

Willis never mentions her spouse’s employer on her form; she simply files his form as an attachment to hers.

The ethics committee instructions for filling out a financial disclosure form indicate that the filer must “report only the source (including U.S. government employment) and type, but not the amount, of a spouse’s earned income which exceeds $1,000.—

According to Lewis spokesman Jim Specht, “Congressman Lewis and Arlene Willis both attach copies of the other’s financial disclosure statements to the copies they file. This goes beyond the requirement, since it provides a complete documentation of the income that each of them earns on both filings.—

Lewis has made no secret that he is married to his chief of staff, and there is no rule prohibiting her from being on the payroll because she worked for his office before they were married.

According to the Web site LegiStorm, which tracks Congressional salaries, Willis earned about $125,000 from Lewis’ office in fiscal 2008.

Until 2007, Willis filed a form that was essentially blank, each page carrying the handwritten notation “as shown on statement of spouse, copy attached.—

In June 2006, Roll Call reported that the FBI had examined the financial disclosure forms of Lewis and Willis in the public records database in the Cannon House Office Building, but neither was charged with any wrongdoing.

In May 2007, Willis filed a full disclosure form of her own, duplicating the assets reported on the Congressman’s form and including a notation “copy of spouse disclosure form attached.—

Lewis that year, as in prior years, also had a footnote on his form indicating “disclosure statement of spouse attached.— That footnote does not appear on the version of the current disclosure form released to the public in June by the Clerk of the House.

There is also no indication that the ethics committee has complained about Lewis’ filings.

“The Committee on Standards [of Official Conduct] has never taken issue with the way that Congressman Lewis and Ms. Willis have filed their forms,— Specht said. “The committee is generally very meticulous in checking that the filings meet their standards and notify members and staff quickly if they feel something is lacking. We’ll check with them to ensure they still believe this meets the standards.—

Specht also said that since the publicly released documents this year may not have made clear that each spouse was including the disclosure forms of the other as an attachment, “They will ensure in the future that both disclosure statements include substantial notification that the other spouse’s disclosure statement is attached.—