Lewis Seeking Rebirth As Political Kingmaker

(July 5) Former Congressman Jerry Lewis, who left the House of Representatives after a 34-year Congressional career that peaked with his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, is seeking to reassert himself as a political player with the formation of political action committee dedicated to electing candidates to federal office.
His role as a legislator now behind him, Lewis is testing whether his reserve of leftover campaign cash and his cachet as one of the steady rocks of his party will allow him to don the mantel of kingmaker.
Within the last fortnight, Lewis converted the now-defunct Lewis For Congress Committee, the campaign committee he had utilized to finance his sixteen runs for reelection to Congress and which had $856,408 left in it when he left office, into a new political action committee. The newly-created PAC will enable him to endow the campaign committees of federal candidates and other committees as Lewis deems fit.
Lewis’s reborn political engine has been dubbed the Jerry Lewis Political Action Committee.
Despite the consideration that Lewis opted to not seek re-election in 2012, in the 2011-12 election cycle the Lewis For Congress Committee nevertheless took in $517,353 in donations.
Lewis served in Congress from 1979 through 2012 and was the godfather of a powerful Southern California political dynasty that promoted the candidacies of several politicians, including former assemblyman Bret Granlund, district attorney Mike Ramos, former supervisor Dennis Hansberger and former assemblyman Russ Bogh. Long the ranking member and later the chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, Lewis eventually acceded to the position of chairman of the House Appropriations Committee when the Republicans achieved majority status in 2005. He stayed in that position through 2006, achieving notoriety as a strong supporter of earmarks.
Lewis’s political career fell into eclipse in 2007, when the U.S. Justice Department initiated an investigation into a number of his votes on the Defense Appropriations Committee relating to weapons systems and defense contracts and his relationship to defense contractors and a lobbying firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White, which worked on behalf of those defense contractors. Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White served as a major fundraiser for Lewis and employed one of his former House colleagues, Bill Lowery, as well as at least two former Lewis staffers after they left Lewis’ office. At the heart of the investigation were votes Lewis made in support of certain weapons systems and contracts which he had not initially supported but which he later voted to approve after the lobbying firm or the defense contractor directly provided money to Lewis’s electioneering fund. Lewis had intentions of retiring from Congress as early as 2008 but delayed that retirement as the Justice Department’s investigation intensified, even after the law firm representing Lewis – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher  – moved to successfully hire the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Debra Wong Yang, who was heading up the Lewis investigation by providing her a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Lewis utilized over $2.7 million from his electioneering fund to pay Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to represent him with regard to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation. In 2011, after the Justice Department closed out its investigation, Lewis was able to surrender the leverage he held as one of the senior members of Congress without disadvantage, and the following year he retired.
While Lewis was not the most prolific of fundraisers during his tenure in Congress, he did raise a respectable $10.6 million, including $5.7 million from PACs, which was used to sustain the Lewis For Congress Committee as well as a political action committee he founded, the still-extant Future Leaders PAC, which currently has $45,150 in its coffers.

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