Former House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis has been under the watch of many for alleged improprieties (check out posts here, here and here), potentially putting his reelection bid in jeopardy this cycle. Now comes word that one of Lewis' staffers has been subpoenaed as a part of a federal grand jury looking into Lewis' activities.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has issued a subpoena for a House Appropriations Committee staffer as part of the ongoing probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the powerful panel.
Greg Lankler, a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee's Defense subcommittee, was recently subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into Lewis, according to House insiders.
The subpoena is for both documents and testimony, although it is unclear at this point whether Lankler will cooperate. The matter has been forwarded to the House general counsel's office, which is still studying the subpoena.
A number of grand jury subpoenas were issued in the summer of 2006 as the Justice Dept. looked into Lewis' relationship with Bill Lowery, a former California Republican who had left Capitol Hill to become a lobbyist. Lewis steered millions of dollars in earmarks to Lowery's clients, who in turned donated tens of thousands of dollars to Lewis' re-election efforts.
In addition, several Lewis' aides worked for Lowery, before and after joining Lewis' staff.
Lewis has denied any wrongdoing, although he has shelled out more than $900,000 in fees to defense attorneys representing him in the probe.
The investigation had been outwardly dormant for an extended period of time, and sources close to Lewis have suggested that it was over, but the Lankler subpoena shows that Justice is still looking into the veteran lawmaker's activities.
No one would argue that California 41, which Lewis represents, is inherently the most competitive of districts. In fact, with a lean of about 9 points towards the Republicans in presidential elections, it is not terribly competitive at all -- save for, of course, a situation in which the incumbent is under federal investigation. Oh, wait...
There is a Democratic candidate in the race, local attorney Tim Prince. But it's not clear to me that he's running the most active of races. For instance, a Google news search for "Tim Prince" yields recent articles in the local paper, the San Bernardino Sun -- but only recently in relation to Prince's service as an attorney and as head oft the local Rotary club, not as a congressional candidate. That said, if Prince -- or someone else, for that matter -- can put together a credible campaign, Lewis' ethics problems could make him vulnerable next fall, so it would not be bad to at least be prepared for whatever comes of the federal grand jury investigation.