CREW Files FOIA Appeals Regarding Rep. Jerry Lewis Investigations
Today CREW filed administrative appeals from the refusal of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of the United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide any records related to their investigations of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Emeritus Jerry Lewis (R-CA), including documents that would answer why Rep. Lewis was not criminally prosecuted despite clear evidence he violated the law.
In 2006, DOJ, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies launched an investigation into whether Rep. Lewis broke the law by steering millions of dollars in earmarks to clients of lobbying firms managed by his friend former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-CA) in exchange for campaign contributions. The investigation looked into several allegations, including that Rep. Lewis helped secure government contracts for Brent Wilkes, a major donor to Rep. Lewis who was later convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham in exchange for earmarks. After four years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced in December 2010 it had closed its investigation of Rep. Lewis’s conduct.
CREW filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records related to the investigation in January. Days later, both EOUSA and the FBI denied the requests, claiming that disclosure would violate Rep. Lewis’s privacy. These denials fail to take into account the significant public interest in Rep. Lewis’s conduct and DOJ’s decision to close its investigation without bringing charges against him, as well as Rep. Lewis’s diminished privacy interest in the requested records.