Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-California, wouldn't answer questions about one of his earmark requests.
We're back on our treasure hunt tonight, chasing earmark requests from senators and representatives in Congress. Usually, the requests are in some far-off land. Alaska, for example, has been an extremely good spot for hunting congressional pet projects.
But on this hunt, we didn't even need to take a cab. You can walk to the location from the U.S. Capitol, and that's why it caught our attention.
A $500,000 earmark was approved for Barracks Row in Washington, D.C., to beautify a little triangle-shaped park that houses a D.C. Metro station. The park is about eight blocks from the Capitol building in a revived neighborhood where real estate prices have been soaring.
Why federal taxpayers are spending half a million dollars to plant flowers in this city park could be the subject of a great debate. But what I wanted to know is why a congressman from California had his name attached to the earmark.
Representative Jerry Lewis, a Republican from the California desert, is the source of the Barracks Row earmark. In a House floor debate, he talked about the great history of the neighborhood, its attachment to Marine barracks not far away, a diverse community, and how his love of the city of Washington spurred him to support the revitalization of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Left out of his speech was one tiny fact I thought might interest you. Jerry Lewis and his wife own a $943,000 town home just three blocks away from the soon-to-be upgraded park.
Congressman Lewis wouldn't talk to me about all this. In fact, tonight you can see him yelling at me when I rang the doorbell of his expensive D.C. abode.
But Lewis supporter and Barracks Row lobbyist Tip Tipton did tell me that I'm being way too cynical if I believe Jerry Lewis inserted an earmark into the Financial Services Appropriations bill because the congressman owns a house here.
"Home values have grown enormously up here," Tipton told me as we walked through the park that is going to be spruced up. "But it's not because of the $500,000 -- I guarantee you that."
As for Lewis, he scolded me, saying it was "stupid" for me even to consider the earmark request was connected to the location of his house.
It may be stupid, but that was actually the first thought I had when I saw his earmark request some 2,600 miles from his home district.
-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent