Jerry Lewis Under Grand Jury Investigation

No, not the guy from the telethons and the old movies with Dean Martin–the other one.

The LAT reports that a federal grand jury is investigating some issues surrounding the top money guy in the House of Representatives.

A political fundraising committee headed by a defense contractor has paid thousands of dollars in fees to the stepdaughter of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) at a time when the contractor has been lobbying Congress for funding. Lewis’ stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon, has been paid more than $42,000 by the Small Biz Tech Political Action Committee, according to campaign finance records. The PAC is led by Nicholas Karangelen, founder and president of Trident Systems Inc. Records show the company received at least $11.7 million in earmarked funds in recent defense spending bills over which Lewis’ committee has jurisdiction.

MSNBC’s Lisa Meyers has a much more damning report:

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R, CA) Photo You may not have heard of him, but Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., is one of the most powerful members of Congress, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls hundreds of billions of dollars.

Tom Casey, CEO of the now-defunct computer software company Audre Inc., has told federal investigators what he says happened in 1993 when he asked for Lewis’ help in getting money for the Pentagon to test software that converted engineering documents to computer formats.

Tom Casey: I just thought, in my opinion, it pressed the boundaries of what was ethical.

In an exclusive interview, Casey tells NBC News that after he made campaign contributions to House members of both parties, Lewis informed him the Pentagon would get $14 million for the testing, and that Casey even could write the language.

Lisa Myers: You were allowed to write language for an appropriations bill yourself?

Casey: Yes, I did. That was Congressman Lewis’ suggestion.

Casey says Lewis repeatedly urged him to hire a lobbyist, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lowery, Lewis’ close friend, and when that didn’t happen, pressed for another favor.

Casey: Congressman Lewis asked me to set up stock options for Bill Lowery in our company.

Casey says Lewis suggested he issue the stock options in Canada — in someone else’s name.

Did you view it as an effort to hide what was really going on?

It was intended to conceal his participation, yes.

Lewis calls that charge “patently false.” Lowery says in a statement to NBC News, “We have absolutely no knowledge of that whatsoever.” Casey never issued the stock options and acknowledges he has absolutely no proof that Lewis did anything illegal.

You went bankrupt, you have every reason to be bitter. Why should anyone believe you?

Casey: I have absolutely nothing to gain, and there is a need for reform.

Now, granted, we should always be leery of those who admittedly participate in illicit activity and then suddenly develop a conscience on they’re caught. It’s not as if Lewis has been found with wads of cash in his freezer.

Still, this doesn’t look good.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven Plunk says:

    It doesn’t look good for him but I like the look of finding corrupt dirt bags and getting rid of them

    Maybe he’s not guilty, if so the investigation will clear him. If he is guilty then good riddance.

    A little bipartisan skull cracking over corruption will do us all good.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’d say he should’ve stuck to comedy, but…

  3. Richard Gardner says:

    Once upon a time, several redistrictings ago, I was represented by Rep Jerry Lewis after Rep Shirley Pettis did not run for reelection due to health reasons. Yes, it was entertaining being represented by Jerry Lewis.

    Lewis only this term became Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, so I do wonder about the timing.

    There are 2 issues here:
    – Recent hiring of his stepdaughter by a PAC – $42000.
    – 1993 claims of putting in an earmark for “consideration,” and an aide bought stock in a company getting an earmark (Chapter 11 in 2 years).

    I think the latter is a Red Herring. An aide may have been corrupt, or maybe not. As for the former, that is status quo in DC that the families of those in power (both parties) gravitate to DC for jobs, particularly if you include other lobbying organizations and NGOs. Public Policy and Government is very much a “family interest/business,” as history has shown (Adams, Roosevelt, Rockefeller, Kennedy, Bush, Ford (TN), Jackson (IL, yes, Jessee Jackson), Daly (IL)). I do not see it as that there is a ruling class so much as people in politics instill in their children a sense of public service (or it could be feeding from the public trough, you decide).

    I have no idea if Lewis’ step-daughter earned her $42k from the PAC. It could be a payoff, or it could be legit.

    The idea that the relative of a politician is not permitted to have a good job in DC, or public policy is absurd. I’m sorry, I don’t care how qualified you are, your second cousin twice removed is a Congressman…… so we can’t hire you.

    This is not (yet?) in the category of Rep Wm. Jefferson on LA – cold cash in the freezer?

    Keeping in the comedy theme, I wonder who the dog is?