A powerful House Republican's ties to a lobby firm under investigation just became a family affair.
Here's what we knew as of this morning: House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is under investigation, along with at least two of his former staffers. Just after leaving Lewis' employ, staffer Letitia White bought a house with one of the defense contractors who wanted funds earmarked from Lewis' committee. Later we learned that house was the headquarters for a Political Action Committee, chaired by that same defense contractor.
Now we can report that the PAC is operated by Lewis' stepdaughter, Julie Willis-Leon.
The group, the Small Biz Tech PAC, takes money from defense firms with business before Lewis' committee. A number of them are clients of the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm, which employs Letitia White. (Both Copeland Lowery and White are under investigation in the Lewis matter.)
At least two of the PAC's contributors -- ICUITI Corp. and Advatech Pacific -- have received earmarks from Lewis' panel, according to records kept by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. (Neither company has returned our calls.)
I spoke with Julia Willis-Leon this morning and asked her if she thought her PAC got any special treatment because her stepfather was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Absolutely not," she told me. "You might note that the PAC has never contributed to him," she added.
Lewis' office has not yet returned my call for comment. I should note that Lewis isn't Julia's only relative on the Hill; her mother, Arlene Willis, is Lewis' staff director. And Jerry Lewis' wife.