Strange connections are still cropping up among players in the expanding Cunningham probe.
House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is the latest congressman to find himself under investigation in the scandal. One of his closest former aides, Letitia White, is also under scrutiny from federal prosecutors.
White left Lewis' staff in January 2003 -- and started working as a lobbyist the very next day. (Her lobby firm, Copeland Lowery & Jacquez, is also under investigation.) Less than a month later, she signed on Trident Systems Inc. as one of her first clients. Then later that same year, White and her husband purchased a house on Capitol Hill together with the owner of Trident and his wife.
Letitia and Richard White bought the house on 3rd Street SE -- just behind the Library of Congress -- with Nicholas Karangelen and his wife, Kathy McPartlan, in December 2003. The price was a flat million dollars -- no odd dollars, extra pennies on the end. Just a one and six zeroes.
Beyond that, it's a mystery. I could find no public record showing how much each couple paid. Neither couple lists the house as their primary residence. My calls to Letitia White and Karangelen went unreturned; McPartlan, whom I reached at home, told me, "I don't have any comment for you."
Of course, White is now a private citizen, not an elected official or a congressional staffer. She can buy a house with whomever she wants. It's only an illustration of the extraordinarily close relationship that a very influential defense lobbyist and former Hill staffer has with a client.
As White's client, Trident paid Copeland Lowery $360,000 from signing on in 2003 to the end of 2005. In at least one identifiable instance, White appears to have delivered for the company: in 2005, according to records kept by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, White helped win Trident a $2 million earmark for a system of wireless beacons to mark targets in preparation for an attack.
Like I said, White can buy a house with anybody she wants. But I'm curious: if the couples don't live there, who does? Is it rented? And if so, by whom? And how much do they pay? Since federal investigators are now scrutinizing White's ties to key defense contractors, I think we can assume that they're asking those questions too.