Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cunningham Won't Be Feted

Bowing to criticism from Democratic and Republican House leaders, a congressionally chartered historical society dropped plans yesterday to include imprisoned former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) in a tribute to retiring members of Congress.

But despite complaints from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the U.S. Capitol Historical Society is keeping former majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on the program for tomorrow's annual event.

So despite the group's about-face on Cunningham, Pelosi still will not attend the event or let her name be used as a co-host, her spokesman said.

"DeLay left Congress under indictment," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. "The ethics committee said they would have investigated him if he weren't leaving."

Ronald A. Sarasin, president and chief executive of the historical society, said DeLay is "entitled to the presumption of innocence" as he awaits trial in a state campaign finance case in Texas.

In a letter yesterday to Pelosi, Sarasin said he was wrong to have included Cunningham's name on the list for the Tribute to Retiring Members of the 109th Congress being held in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.

Cunningham was sentenced in March to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes.

Lewis Reveals Hefty Legal Bill

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), under investigation for his ties to a lobbyist, spent $200,000 on his legal team last month.

Lewis, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, reported spending the sum as a retainer to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on June 7, several weeks after the federal investigation of his connections to lobbyist Bill Lowery became public. The payment was contained in Federal Election Commission reports filed Saturday.

Lewis's legal team at the firm includes former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson; Robert C. Bonner, who once led the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles and was once head of Customs and Border Protection; and Mel Levine, a former Democratic congressman from California. Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles are investigating the close and mutually beneficial relationship between Lewis and Lowery, focusing on Lowery's clients who have gotten tens of millions of dollars for projects in the annual spending bills Lewis's committee approves. Lowery and his associates have been top donors to Lewis's campaigns.

Lewis, who ended the three-month reporting period with nearly $1.5 million cash on hand, faces little-known Democrat Louie Contreras in the November election.

For the Record

· The House gave its approval yesterday to a U.S.-Russia treaty to help protect polar bears from overhunting and other threats to their survival. The House bill puts into effect a 2000 treaty that sets quotas on polar bear hunting by native populations in the two countries and establishes a bilateral commission to analyze how best to sustain the polar bear habitat. It passed by voice vote.

· House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was released from a suburban Maryland hospital yesterday after spending several days being treated for a skin infection. Hastert "is ready for another busy legislative week," spokesman Ron Bonjean said.

-- From News Services

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