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When Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White announced last week that it would be breaking up, it said it would continue to do business as usual. But doing business as usual probably depends on firm clients not being hauled in front of a federal grand jury. In the past month the firm, which is known for its close ties to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), has found itself at the center of yet another federal probe into the K Street influence game. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from at least six firm clients, seeking information detailing Copeland Lowery’s dealings with Lewis. Neither Lewis nor the firm has been charged with any wrongdoing. Two Copeland Lowery partners, Jeffrey Shockey and Letitia White, are alums of Lewis’ congressional office. In addition, name partner Bill Lowery was also close to Lewis while serving for 12 years in the House as a California Republican lawmaker. As the investigation gathered steam and media scrutiny intensified, the firm’s two Democratic partners, James Copeland and Lynn Jacquez, left the firm, announcing plans to start their own shop. But Copeland’s and Jacquez’s departures don’t appear to be simply an old-fashioned partisan split. It’s the Republicans — and especially Lowery — whose ties to Lewis run the deepest. Repping the embattled firm are Covington & Burling lawyers Lanny Breuer and Robert Kelner, who did not return phone calls. Partners at Copeland Lowery referred calls to firm spokesman Patrick Dorton. “The work the firm engages in is similar to the work that thousands of consultants and lobbyists engage in every single day,” Dorton says. “There’s no difference. All the work done by the firm is consistent with the laws and rules that govern federal lobbying.” The six Copeland Lowery clients who received grand jury subpoenas are all based in California. Shockey served as the lead lobbyist for five of them. The subpoenas ask for Copeland’s clients to turn over, among other materials, “all documents relating to communications by and between you and United States Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and/or any member of his congressional or committee staff.” Perhaps more tellingly, the subpoenas also ask the clients to turn over documents relating to their decision to hire Copeland Lowery, indicating that investigators are interested in how the firm marketed itself to potential clients. On K Street the firm had a reputation for pitching itself as “friends of Jerry” to clients, say many lobbyists. Among the clients who received subpoenas were the California cities of Twentynine Palms, Redlands, and Loma Linda; San Bernardino County, Calif.; and the Cal State San Bernardino Foundation. Riverside County, Calif., for which Lowery served as the lead lobbyist, also received a subpoena last month. David Wert, public information officer for San Bernardino County, describes the subpoena as “a burden.” To date, he says the county has supplied more than 3,500 e-mails and other documents sent among county officials, Copeland Lowery, and Lewis’ office. Last year the county paid the firm approximately $160,000 in lobby fees, according to Senate lobby disclosure filings. The county’s relationship with Copeland Lowery has not been terminated, though Wert says the contract will expire at the end of this month. Before the subpoena was served on county officials on May 17, the county began soliciting new businesses involved in federal advocacy work, and it has received six proposals so far. Copeland Lowery, which first partnered with the county in October 2002, has always done “good work,” says Wert, adding that San Bernardino County’s director of legislative affairs still has daily phone contact with firm officials. Michael Swigart, city manager for Twentynine Palms, which paid the firm about $40,000 in 2005, says he too has cooperated with the investigation and submitted documents relating to Copeland Lowery. Swigart says there’s no discussion of severing the relationship with the firm. Though the Justice Department declined to comment about the investigation, it appears to be an offshoot of the probe into now-imprisoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who was convicted on federal bribery charges. The connections between Cunningham and Copeland Lowery — even if proper — would naturally have drawn the attention of investigators, say lobbyists familiar with the firm. Copeland Lowery counted among its clients ADCS Inc., a data company that received tens of millions of dollars worth of defense contracts from Cunningham’s subcommittee. In his guilty plea last fall, Cunningham admitted to accepting a $100,000 bribe from ADCS lobbyist Brent Wilkes. Lowery served as the head lobbyist on the ADCS account at Copeland Lowery. SMALL SHOP,BIG FRIEND In a town full of heavy hitters, few would have pegged the relatively small and obscure Copeland Lowery to be the focal point of a brewing lobby scandal. And many on K Street think the latest drama is much ado about nothing. “These days, there seems to be a lot more smoke than fire when it comes to these kinds of things,” says Kenneth Gross, an ethics expert at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom .
The genesis and fall of lobby shop Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White
YEAR RELATIONSHIP
1992 James Copeland founds firm.
1993 Bill Lowery, former California Republican congressman, joins firm. He served on the Appropriations Committee with Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) from 1985 to 1993.
1994 After the Republican revolution, Lewis becomes chairman of the Housing and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.
1999 Jeffrey Shockey, a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee, leaves to join Copeland. Lewis becomes chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
2003 Letitia Hoadley White, a staffer to Lewis, joins Copeland.
2005 Lewis becomes chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in January. Shortly after, Shockey becomes deputy staff director of the committee. In November, then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, admits to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Lewis was chairman at the time of the Cunningham bribes.
June 2006 Firm reports Shockey was paid $1.96 million in separation payments when he left to work for the House Appropriations Committee. News accounts note that Julia Willis-Leon, a lobbyist and stepdaughter of Lewis, was paid $40,000-plus by the Small Biz Tech PAC, which operated out of a Capitol Hill town house half-owned by White. White was also its largest contributor. Breakup of the firm is announced. According to a written statement, Lowery, Jean Denton, and White will remain, while the firm’s two Democratic partners, Copeland and Lynn Jacquez, will form a separate partnership.

Despite its portrayal in the press as a plugged-in and powerful lobby shop, Copeland Lowery’s 12 registered lobbyists and $7.2 million in lobby revenue last year make it a second-tier player. But it doesn’t always take a blue-chip client roster to net partners a seven-figure paycheck — especially when you’ve got the ear of the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversaw more than $900 billion of federal spending in 2005. A similarly improbable target of the investigation, lobbyists say, is Lewis. Despite his powerful chairmanship, the Redlands, Calif., lawmaker is not known for having a taste for the good life, and many on K Street are quick to defend him. “I would never have thought, and don’t think today, of Lewis and sleaze in the same sentence,” says one Republican lobbyist. Lewis is not a “guy’s guy,” adds another lobbyist. His dog, Bruin, a bichon fris�poodle mix, is often seen in the office. His wife, Arlene Willis, is his chief of staff. He usually eschews the networking scene at the Palm and Oceanaire Seafood Room, preferring smaller restaurants off Washington’s beaten path. And Lewis views his staffers, both former and present, as one big family. Several of Copeland Lowery’s partners do, however, have close ties to Lewis. Lowery served with Lewis on the Appropriations Committee from 1985 to 1992. Partner White was a Lewis staffer for 21 years. Shockey, another former Lewis staffer, joined Copeland in 1999 but left last year to return to the Hill as the Appropriations Committee’s deputy staff director. Shockey did not respond to several phone calls seeking comment for this article. Unlike the case of their old boss, some ex-staffers’ financial dealings have drawn attention from the media and other lobbyists. Of particular note, White co-owns a million-dollar Capitol Hill town house, out of which Lewis’ stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon, runs the Small Biz Tech PAC. While not illegal, the appearance created by such a connection, lobbyists say, is not ideal. “There are ways to protect him [Lewis] by making sure you don’t put him into difficult situations,” says James Dyer, a lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock and former clerk and staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. “Unlike the Cunningham issue where you had a warehouse full of antiques and a boathouse in the harbor . . . I’ve never seen Lewis get a nickel.” Lewis’ office did not return calls seeking comment. MILLION-DOLLAR MAN Scrutiny of Copeland Lowery’s relationship with Lewis has focused especially on Shockey, particularly after his January 2005 move from the firm back to the Hill raised some eyebrows. When he left Copeland Lowery, he received a $1.9 million separation payout, $1.5 million of which went toward buying out his partnership stake in the firm. The $1.5 million represented half of Shockey’s projected 2005 earnings had he remained with the firm, says Trent Duffy, the former White House deputy press secretary who is now serving as a spokesman for Shockey. At the time, Shockey hired ethics lawyer William Oldaker of Oldaker, Biden and Belair to advise him on drafting his separation agreement with the firm and in completing required financial disclosure forms for incoming congressional staffers. Oldaker remains Shockey’s attorney; calls placed to him were returned by Duffy. “Mr. Shockey has followed the rules, played by the book, and has disclosed everything required by law and the House ethics rules,” says Duffy. “He retained Oldaker out of his own pocket to make sure that his separation agreement and disclosures were done by the book.” Duffy says that Shockey has not been contacted by federal investigators.


Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected] . Andy Metzger can be contacted at [email protected] .

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