House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, under federal investigation over his ties to a lobbyist, has hired a high-profile legal team from a Los Angeles-based law firm.
Lewis, R-Calif., has denied wrongdoing and has said he has not been contacted by federal investigators in the probe, which became public last month and is being run by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
The team 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.
All are partners at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP. Olson and Warin are based in Washington and Bonner and Levine in Los Angeles.
The hires were confirmed by Bonner and Barbara Comstock, an attorney at another firm who is acting as a spokeswoman for the legal team.
"Congressman Lewis has impressed me as a decent and honorable man and a dedicated public official, and he certainly doesn't appear to be someone who's enriched himself by virtue of his distinguished service in Congress," Bonner said in an interview.
He said the legal team was hired within the past couple of weeks but declined to comment further. Lewis' congressional spokesman also declined to comment.
Comstock previously has acted as spokeswoman for lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
The hires were first reported Tuesday by Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
As part of the investigation, a federal grand jury has subpoenaed a number of clients of a lobbying firm that employs former California Republican Rep. Bill Lowery. Lowery is a close Lewis friend who represents clients looking for federal project spending _ or earmarks _ in bills that mostly come out of Lewis' committee.
Lowery, others at the firm and their clients have donated heavily to Lewis' campaign operations, and the clients _ including a number of Southern California municipalities _ have obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in earmarks.