Monday, August 28, 2006

General Atomics and Dirty California Politicians

Just days ago State found the “private contractor” responsible for the explosion at a Louisiana military base licensed its technology from a division of General Atomics. In a fun game of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, I wondered how far I might have to go to find connections to “dirty politicians”.

It turned out not very far as GA donated regularly to the Randy "Duke" Cunningham campaign. This morning’s news indicates the dirty laundry to be much heavier than just "Randy Randy".

A receptionist in Rep. Jerry Lewis’ office parlayed her phone answering expertise into huge lobbying money from defense contractors. Admittedly she grew to the height of the Representative’s defense aide before joining a lobbying firm with another Lewis friend, ex. Rep. Bill Lowery.

Rep. Lewis is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The potential case of corruption is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office. They’ve issued 10 subpoenas and reviewed financial disclosure statements.

Concerning details reported by the AP include:

During the year prior to her departure from Lewis' office, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, her income dropped by around $11,000, to just $80 below the $112,500 salary ceiling that would have triggered an automatic one-year ban on her lobbying of Lewis.

The day after leaving the Hill, on Jan. 9, 2003, White signed up a major client, General Atomics, along with one of its aeronautics subsidiaries. The companies received several multimillion-dollar earmarks that year in the defense spending bill for the 2004 fiscal year, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, including $3 million for General Atomics to provide anti-terror systems at Liberty Island, home to the Statue of Liberty, and $15.3 million for the aeronautics division to develop unmanned aerial vehicles.

Earmarks are funding inserted into legislation that often get little or no review. Prosecutors are scrutinizing Lewis' earmarks as part of the federal probe.

By the end of 2003, White had signed up about 15 more clients, mostly defense contractors, and was bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. Her clients were enjoying similar success to General Atomics in getting earmarks. White, her husband lobbyist Richard White, and her firm's clients were donating generously to Lewis' fundraising committees.

During the 2004 election cycle, officials with General Atomics were the second-highest donors to Lewis' campaign committee, giving $18,000; another White client, Isothermal System Research, was third-highest, giving $14,000; and officials with Copeland, Lowery were fourth-highest, giving $13,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Tens of thousands more was donated to the political action committee Lewis used to spread campaign cash to other lawmakers as he gunned for the Appropriations Committee chairmanship.

This all happened on the Bush watch, where the incestuous relationships between government and industry rivals anything in history. Who wants to bet, the inquiry shows no illegal behavior? My money is on a clean bill for both the ex-receptionist and Rep. Jerry Lewis as they already have their Cunningham/Abramoff scapegoats. Now that would be comical!

P.S. Rep. Lewis’ top campaign supporter of all time is none other than General Atomics, coming in at nearly $80,000.

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