Six months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice wrapped up an investigation into Congressman Jerry Lewis, a 17-term Republican from Redlands, for improperly handling earmarks and government contracts.
The DOJ decided not to prosecute and everyone involved moved on.
However, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, wasn't so sure and wanted to review the inquiry, demanding all of the records related to the DOJ's investigation.
So far, however, the group has been denied access to the records, so the D.C.-based organization is taking its fight to federal court, suing the DOJ to gain insight into what happened with Lewis.
According to the group's lawsuit, the DOJ was investigating:
... allegations that Rep. Lewis improperly steered millions of dollars in earmarks for clients of lobbying firms managed by former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-CA), many of whom made substantial contributions to Rep. Lewis's campaign committee and his political action committee. DOJ also investigated allegations that Rep. Lewis improperly helped secure government contracts for donors.
Lowery, according to Courthouse News Service, which first reported the lawsuit, left Congress in 1990 and "went into lobbying, where he has specialized in adding earmarks to bills."
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In December, the DOJ told Lewis it would not prosecute. A month later, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington utilized the Freedom of Information Act, requesting all materials not covered by grand jury secrecy laws that related to the investigation.
The watchdog group claims that the government located responsive documents yet denied the group's requests to view them. The group has since appealed and says it has not received a final ruling yet.
The lack of response, the group argues, means that the DOJ has "wrongfully withheld agency records" by failing to comply with the statutory time limit for making a decision on the appeal.
The watchdog group is asking the court to release the records at once.