DOJ Must Cough Up Records on Congressman
WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release more records on its investigation of former Congressman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., after "impressive" stalling on the government's part.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued the DOJ in 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act after it refused to release any materials on its investigation of allegations that Lewis "improperly steered millions of dollars in earmarks for clients of lobbying firms."
The government released more than 2,000 documents after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected its attempt to exclude nearly all of its materials from disclosure.
"Although DOJ's time-consuming efforts here are impressive, the Court is constrained to conclude that FOIA requires more," Boasberg ruled.
CREW's 2011 complaint demanded that the Justice Department turn over documents from its investigations of "allegations that Rep. Lewis, improperly steered millions of dollars in earmarks for clients of lobbying firms managed by former Rep. Bill Lowery (R., Calif.), many of whom made substantial contributions to Rep. Lewis's campaign committee and his political action committee."
Lewis, who was not prosecuted, announced that he would not run for re-election in 2012 after 17 terms in office.
"DOJ also investigated allegations that Rep. Lewis improperly helped secure government contracts for donors," CREW stated in its complaint. "The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California notified Rep. Lewis in December 2010 that DOJ had concluded its investigation of him and declined to prosecute him."
Boasberg found that the Justice Department continued withholding documents after it reluctantly released the 2,000 documents, invoking exemptions of work product, privileged and third-party privacy protected material, and grand jury information.
Boasberg rejected the DOJ's arguments, granting in part CREW's motion for summary judgment.
"If DOJ does not produce the requested documents, it must provide full explanations of its withholdings under all relevant FOIA exemptions for any records and redacted portions not made available to plaintiff," Boasberg ruled.
Lowery, a five-term congressman from Southern California, dropped out when his home was moved into the district of fellow Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham in 1990. Lowery went into lobbying, where he has specialized in adding earmarks to bills.