Congressman’s stepdaughter got payoffs from defense contractors

Rep. Jerry Lewis’ stepdaughter received more than $40,000 from a political fundraising group led by a defense contractor who got government contracts worth millions of dollars from a powerful House committee that Lewis chairs, records show.

Julia Willis-Leon was given the money by the Small Biz Tech Political Action Committee headed by Nicholas Karangelen, founder and president of Trident Systems, according to campaign finance records.

The payments were made in 2005 and early 2006, a time when Karangelen had been lobbying Congress for funding. Trident received $12.2 million in projects in defense spending bills between 2002 and 2006, according to a study by Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, who monitors “earmarks” that lawmakers include in congressional spending bills.

The bills were approved by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee. Lewis led the subcommittee until taking over the full committee last year.

The political action committee said Willis-Leon was paid for her work as a fundraiser.

Karangelen declined comment on news reports about the payment. “I don’t really have anything to add to what I’ve seen in the paper especially since it looks like it’s a misrepresentation of the facts,” he said in a brief interview.

Lewis issued a statement defending his record as a congressman.

“I have always made every effort to meet the highest ethical standards in all aspects of my congressional work. I am confident that any review of my work will confirm this,” the Republican said.

Willis-Leon, who lives in Las Vegas, received more than one-third of the approximately $115,000 raised by the political action committee, according to its financial disclosure reports.

She told the Los Angeles Times, “I am proud to have worked for the PAC, and I am proud of what it is doing.”

Lewis is under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles over his ties to Bill Lowery, a former congressman employed by Trident’s lobbying firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White.

One of the lobbyists working for the firm, former Lewis aide Letitia White, co-owns a Washington house with Karangelen that was initially used as an address for the Small Biz Tech PAC. Karangelen, White, and other Copeland, Lowery clients also donated to the PAC.

Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for the firm, declined comment on the PAC and characterized the home purchase as a private matter.

“It was not connected in any way to any fee arrangement or any work for Trident,” he said.


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