CREW Releases Report on Botched DOJ Investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis
Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a new report detailing the now-closed federal probe into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, CREW received more than 1,500 pages of highly redacted documents from the FBI. CREW is still awaiting the release of further records. The documents reveal the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was severely hampered by a lack of resources at both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. In the end, decisions by DOJ as to how the investigation would be run and the limited support given to the Lewis investigative team ensured its failure.
“Unable to avoid a criminal probe given the mounting evidence of Rep. Lewis’ misconduct, DOJ did the next best thing: it undermined its own investigation,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even the minimal documents DOJ was forced to disclose make clear the inquiry was doomed from the start.”
In February 2006, the FBI opened an investigation into allegations Rep. Lewis was exchanging earmarks for clients of lobbyist Bill Lowery and his firm, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, in return for campaign contributions, as well as whether the congressman had improperly assisted Cerberus Capital Management in preserving a defense spending project.
The investigation was assigned to the Riverside Resident Agency of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, which though in Rep. Lewis’ district, was more than 3,000 miles away from where many of the alleged crimes occurred. This, combined with the apparent lack of public corruption experience of the agents assigned to the matter, seemed to hamper the probe. Additionally, the FBI was unable to track the flow of earmarks resulting from contacts with lobbyists.
Decisions by DOJ upper-level management from the outset ordained the outcome. FBI documents reveal the investigative team was repeatedly denied requests for additional support and personnel. In one instance, agents had to seek special permission to rent a car to interview witnesses. In December 2010, after a four-year investigation, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California announced the end of the probe.
“In the end, the decision not to prosecute Rep. Lewis is more an indictment of DOJ than a vindication of Rep. Lewis,” continued Ms. Sloan. “How many more corruption investigations does DOJ need to flub before public outcry forces the department to actually hold government leaders accountable?”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.