Video: U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis under investigation

updated 7/17/2006 4:47:58 PM ET 2006-07-17T20:47:58

Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis of Redlands, under investigation over his ties to a lobbyist, spent $200,000 on lawyers last month, campaign finance filings show.

Lewis, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, reported spending the sum as a retainer to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP on June 7, several weeks after the federal investigation of his connections to lobbyist Bill Lowery became public, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Saturday.

His legal team at the firm includes former Solicitor General Ted Olson; Robert Bonner, who once led the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles and was once head of Customs and Border Protection; Mel Levine, a former Democratic congressman from California; and Joseph Warin, a former federal prosecutor.

"We consulted in advance with the Ethics Committee in full compliance with House rules regarding the use of campaign funds for legal representation. An initial retainer then was paid to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher," Barbara Comstock, a spokeswoman for Lewis and his legal team, said in a statement.

Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles are investigating the close and mutually beneficial relationship between Lewis and Lowery, focusing on Lowery clients who have gotten tens of millions of dollars for projects in the annual spending bills Lewis' committee approves. Lowery and his associates have been top donors to Lewis' campaigns.

Despite the expenditure for his legal team, Lewis ended the reporting period June 30 with nearly $1.5 million in cash on-hand, reports show. The money he spent on lawyers represented nearly all of the $213,000 in disbursements he reported for the period, which covered May 18 to June 30.

Lewis, a 14-term incumbent, routinely wins re-election by wide margins in his Republican-heavy inland Southern California district. This year looks to be no exception despite the investigation.

He faces Democrat Louie Contreras, a political unknown, in November. Contreras has filed no fundraising reports _ candidates must file if they raise over $5,000 _ and the phone number listed on his Web site rang unanswered Monday with no voicemail.

On his Web site Contreras describes himself as "a native Californian who as a dedicated husband and father has chosen to raise his family and start a successful business in San Bernardino county." The Web site says he lives in Hesperia and started an insurance brokerage company.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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