Dec. 5, 2006 – In what government watchdogs call a conflict of interest, three lawmakers under investigation by the Justice Department are in a position to determine how much money the Department will get next year.
The FBI is investigating California Republican Representatives Jerry Lewis and John Doolittle, as well as West Virginia Democrat Alan Mollohan. All sit on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls federal spending bills. Lewis chairs the committee.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling on the congressmembers to disqualify themselves from reviewing appropriations for the Department of Justice.
"In the November elections, the public clearly indicated that it was fed up with the culture of corruption in Washington," Melanie Sloan, CREWâ€™s executive director, said in a press statement. "[CREW] believes it is imperative that no member under federal investigation be involved in the oversight or appropriations of any agency involved in investigating that member."
Mollohan is accused of steering $178 million to nonprofits in West Virginia run by his campaign contributors and of failing to disclose some of his assets, according to the Wall Street Journal. The LA Times reports that Lewis is under investigation, possibly for allocating funds to clients of his friend Bill Lowery, a lobbyist and former San Diego congressman. And the Washington Post has reported that the Justice Department is probing Doolittleâ€™s connections to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.