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Congress / CONGRESS

House Gavel Hopefuls Take It From All Sides

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jerry Lewis.

December 3, 2010

The Justice Department has closed a four-year investigation into House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., removing a cloud as he seeks to reclaim the chairmanship of the committee he helmed from 2005-2007.

“We recently informed counsel for Rep. Lewis that this office had closed its criminal investigation,’’ said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. He declined to provide further details.

Lewis was alleged to have steered earmarks to campaign donors.

 

The DOJ’s action was met with derision by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Melanie Sloan, who charged that the agency “chickened out and allowed a corrupt politician to get away with deplorable conduct.” 

“Rep. Lewis blatantly sold his office and used his powerful perch on the Appropriations Committee to steer millions in earmarks to some of his biggest campaign donors,” Sloan said.

The DOJ’s announcement comes as Lewis awaits a vote in the Republican Steering Committee next week on his bid for the gavel of the Appropriations Committee. The announcement also comes as the House and Senate GOP caucuses have both adopted voluntary bans on earmarks.

Meanwhile, one of Lewis’s challengers for the gavel, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., is getting grief from conservatives for considering William Inglee to be his chief of staff if he becomes committee chairman.

Inglee is a former lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, according to lobbying records from Open Secrets. He also worked for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Inglee also worked for the House Tuesday Group Caucus, a group of moderate Republicans, according to conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart.

 “Inglee is the classic RINO (Republicans in name only),” Breitbart said on his website.

“He went on the serve as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin where he pushed for defense earmarks for the company,” Brietbart said.

He also contends that Inglee gave political contributions to leading Democrats, including the late House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

“He is an appropriator through and through,” Brietbart said. “The time has come to reform and limit the appropriations process.”

A spokesman for Rogers said that he is considering a number of people for staff positions.

“Congressman Rogers has met with a number of potential candidates and if selected as chairman, he will make those decisions in the due course of time,” said Stefani Zimmerman, communications director for Rogers. “Today, his focus is on continuing to cast a vision for a more collaborative, cost-cutting Appropriations Committee and no final decisions have been made about possible staff.”

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