More evidence that Rep. Jerry Lewis is dirty

A top aide to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis received $1.96 million in severance payments from a lobbying firm with ties to Lewis, according to documents released Friday.

The connection between Lewis, a California Republican, and the Washington-based firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White, is under federal investigation.

The payment to Jeff Shockey, who left Copeland Lowery early last year to become deputy staff director of the Appropriations Committee, was contained in his 2005 financial disclosure form. Congressional lawmakers and top staff must file such forms each year.

Attorneys for Shockey and his wife, Alexandra, a lobbyist, released the form Friday and discussed it with reporters on a conference call on condition they not be identified.

Shockey’s 2004 financial disclosure form reported he had received at least $600,000 when he left the lobbying firm. But he was paid full sum last year.

Shockey joined Copeland Lowery in 1999 after an earlier stint working for Lewis. He was making about $1.5 million a year when he left.

The payments were based in part on revenue that Shockey would have brought in had he stayed with the firm. Based on the figures in the disclosure form, his revenue estimate jumped from about $1.7 million in 2004 to about $3 million in 2005 as he added new clients, his attorneys said.

That period coincided with speculation that Lewis, then chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, would take over the gavel of the full committee. That happened in January 2005.

Attorneys for the Shockeys said the separation payment was a buyout of his ownership stake in the lobbying firm and that he was legally obligated to divest all interest in the firm to avoid any conflict of interest when he returned to Capitol Hill.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles has subpoenaed clients of Copeland Lowery, which employs former California congressman Bill Lowery, a close Lewis friend. The firm helps clients _ including counties and towns in Lewis’ Southern California congressional district _ get valuable federal project spending, or “earmarks,” approved by Lewis’ committees.

Lewis has denied any wrongdoing and has said he has not been contacted by federal investigators. One of Shockey’s attorneys said the aide had not been contacted in the probe either.

© 2006 The Associated Press