Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Earmark request hits close to home
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
Posted By CNN: 4:03 PM ET
  28 Comments
My senator's office hasn't even responded to my email. They just aren't cooperating with us Drew!
Posted By Jess, Paris, KY : 4:18 PM ET
Drew:

The law abiding, tax paying Americans really appreciate your efforts on the "Keeping Your Honest" segments of the show.

All of us know this smells funny and once again you and your team busted yet another Congressman.

I was thinking about those hard working summer interns. Are they working on those telephone numbers associated with the Madam? I was hoping for a full report by Friday! LOL!
Posted By Renee Bradenton, FL : 4:42 PM ET
Hi Drew,
Good job as usual. But I must admit I sometimes wonder when and if honesty will ever come back. You can't keep people honest who have no incentive to do the right thing. Exposure and shame are tools, but it seems sad that we've all come to that. So I'm afraid piggy projects will keep coming to a neighborhood near all of us. Unless we as a society are all willing to end the me, me, me.. It's all about me attitude, then greed and shady deals will bloat the piggy bank of pork. Keep up the good work.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 4:56 PM ET
If it smells like a horse and looks like a horse and you hear hoofbeats, don't try to tell me it's a zebra. My backyard is my own little park - can Rep. Lewis earmark a little piece of the pie for me?
Posted By Sean, Kenmore NY : 4:58 PM ET
Drew/AC360:
Americans are at war with our own government.

Congressman Lewis is just one more example on how "out of control" our federal (as well as state and local) government monies are lost to foolish pet projects and clueless bureaucracy.

Here in Hoosierland, we have been socked with alarming property taxes, skyrocketing gasoline prices hitting $3.50 per gallon, and home foreclosures are going through the roof!

I am considering moving to.......oh, wait a minute, I forgot...I don't have any more money.....I can't afford to drive my car, pay my mortgage, or buy food for my table.

Meanwhile, various congressional "increase my assets" members are spending $500,000 on a park in D.C.?

Keep them honest, Drew! Thank you for reporting on such travesties by congressional members. Please continue to seek out the abusers!
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 5:12 PM ET
It's amazing what elected officials can do with a straight face. Maybe Jeanne Moos should do an item on reporters being scolded (or worse) while doing their jobs. Kenny Rogers has reformed so he could be omitted from the piece.
Posted By Gypsy, an American in Mexico : 5:26 PM ET
Drew - Since your initial report, my Congresswoman, Shelley Berkeley, and both of my Senators, Majority Leader Harry Reid & John Porter, have not responded to my email and telephone requests.

Shame on all three of you! You could be losing my vote!
Posted By Barbara in Las Vegas, NV : 5:39 PM ET
From someone who went fishing for the first time over the long week-end, this smells worse than my bait! My Rep was in town and sent out a mass e-mail for people to meet her, but unfortunately I had to work. I did e-mail her, asking her to respond to your requests. I hope that she does! Thanks for staying with this story. P.S. I didn't see any of those crazy carp in Wisconsin yet! Have a great day.
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 6:09 PM ET
Way to go Drew! I love the "Keeping them Honest" segments on 360 and it is my hope that the 360 crew will keep shining the light on our elected officials who lack integrety. It seems suspicious to me.
I can't wait to see the piece tonight.
Posted By Judy Stage/Brooklyn Mi : 6:14 PM ET
Hi Drew,

Now that's a great catch! I'm so glad that you're continuing to pursue this while other "journalists" pursue Paris H. Mr. Lewis knows that you caught him trying to spruce up his neighborhood using tax dollars. We the people truly have the power to make changes if we all speak up. My parents owned a small cafe and the City had wanted to beautify the area by planting flowers along businesses on Route 66 that the city would care for. This was during a time when I was a sophmore in high school and music and drama classes were taken out of the curriculum due to lack of school funds. When a city representative came to our cafe and told us we had to lose one of our parking spaces for a box of flowers, I told her we didn't want it. She said the voters voted yes to beautify the city and that I should've voted too if I was against it. I told her that since I was underage I could not and that the tax dollars should be going back to the classes that were cut from school. Suffice to say no flowers were planted in the parking lot of our cafe.

Brief update on my attempts to contact Congressman Brad Sherman and Senator Hillary Clinton (she's not my Senator but I am registered as a Democrat)regarding the earmarks - no response yet.
Posted By M.W. Van Nuys, CA : 6:19 PM ET
I was curious about Rep. Lewis since he is from a neighboring district, so I did a little research.

It seems that his interest in the history of our nation's capital is somewhat new to him. He was given a rating of 0 in 2003 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation which is a private, nonprofit, membership organization, dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities.
Posted By Barbara, Culver City, CA : 6:19 PM ET
I want *everyone* to notice that Mr. Lewis also is one of those Republican's who will not give our troops any time off after multiple tours of duty. My two sons have served, repectively, three and four tours in Iraq with a 30 day "break" between each tour. Apparently, utter swine like the Congressman, think it's okay to sacrifice our sons and daughter to support their failed Iraq policy AND figure we owe them perks for this to boot. What an ass! Guess what Congressman, THIS voter, formerly a reliable Republican voter, is going to take it out on every Republican candidate I can find. I expect to be joined by the majority of my fellow voters. Do you understand the term "Goodbye!"
Posted By mike - eugene,Oregon : 6:41 PM ET
Drew,

Good investigative reporting. What a joke. Our guys in Iraq may not have the body armor or helmet inserts that they need to protect them, but we can spend $500K of our tax dollars for flowers. This disgusts me. I am glad Mr. Lewis is not my Congressional rep.

Speaking of which, my representative Jerry McNerney did post his earrmarks. However, my e-mails to Ms. Boxer and Ms. Feinstein have not been answered. I checked their websites and could find no references to them releasing their earrmarks. Then again, they are busy not ending the war.

The piece last night on infidelities by politicians was very interesting. Americans have such low expectations of politicians that they can overlook adultry. So I guess this will be overlooked as well. Can we blame Mr. Lewis for wanting to spruce up his neighborhood and protect his property values? Of course not. Give me a break.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 7:06 PM ET
It's being "penny-wise and pound-foolish", to focus on $500,000 when us taxpayers are being "taken to the cleaners" for billions by illegals who use up our medical services, commit welfare fraud and steal our social security numbers.
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 7:13 PM ET
Hi All:

I forgot to tell you all about a mindboggling book called "Outrage" written by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann in my earlier submission.

(Hey, Anderson, can you get either of these authors on your show?)

The book highlights the costs of taxpayer earmarks in the trillions.

The one that really highlights all of this government non-sense is this one

$13.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which helped finance the World Toilet Summit.

And well, that pretty much sums up our tax dollars!
Posted By Renee Bradenton, FL : 7:18 PM ET
I guess it's our patriotic duty to support Congress spending half a million dollars to make a section of DC look pretty and allow this guy's property values to increase on his almost million dollar home (that I'm sure our tax dollars via his salary helped finance). Please. Government by the people for the politicians. I apologize for the cynacism but when is America going to wake up en masse? Half a million could go a long way to help a rural HIV clinic provide services or put books in an inner school library or rebuild parts of the MS/LA Coast still non-existent or severely damaged. I dunno. Pretty parks in DC matter more I guess. Glad to see the Congressional priorities are in order...
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 7:24 PM ET
Why don't we ask Congress to install term limits on themselves? (oh yeah, that's gonna happen)
Posted By xtina - chgo L : 7:43 PM ET
Dear Drew,

As you know, on June 28 I called my senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich and my representative Betty Sutton requesting information on their earmark requests, but accept for an email acknowleding my phone call from Congresswoman Sutton I have not received a single response regarding their earmarks.

Since I did get the runaround from all three offices over the phone I am not holding my breath for any type of satisfactory response, but if I do receive any response whatsoever, you will be the first to know.

Keep up the great work; I think this is certainly an issue worth pursuing!

Jo Ann
Posted By Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 8:12 PM ET
Hi Drew,

Forest Gump's Mama said it best.
"Stupid is as stupid does".

How do these Congressmen expect to represent constituents fairly when they think that we are this dumb? How insulting. Do they really expect us to buy this?

The other thing that I find distressing is the fact that Lewis "yelled" at you. There is no need to take your guilt out on a nice correspondent doing an honest days work. That makes me angry. It also makes me think "Methinks thou doth protest too much". Guilty, guilty, guilty!!! And so obvious!

Good job as always Drew.

Sheesh, first the carp, then the bomb, now you have Congressmen calling you stupid? Here's hoping CNN gives you a "fun" piece to report on next. :)

Take care!
Posted By Pati McMillan, Camp Hill, PA : 9:22 PM ET
I just reveived a corporate policy compliance form from my company, an ad agency. One thing my company requires, seems to apply here. And that's to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety." I suppose that's because at various times and under diverse circumstances, advertising has been portrayed as less than honest. Is it any wonder that because of this my company would want us to uphold high standards? Wouldn't you think the same holds true for members of Congress at all times, and especially in light of current concerns?
Posted By Jefferey, New York, NY : 9:41 PM ET
Rep. Lewis was also a target of U.S. attorney Carol Lam's investigation when she was suddenly fired in the attorney firing scandal. I think there may be much bigger things Lewis is guilty of than just an earmark.

BTW, to the Las Vegas commenter above, Jon Porter does not represent her at all because he is not a Senator. That distinction belongs to John Ensign.
Posted By Sean, Los Angeles, CA : 9:41 PM ET
Maybe a good first step on curtailing earmarks is that the request has to be in the state and/or district you represent. At least they would make a little sense then. And give them a monetary cap for their total that declines with inflation rates - like an allowance. The rest of us live on an ever shrinking budget; let them do the same!
Posted By Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 9:43 PM ET
I don't I am entitled to comment on the Flower Planting since I am a Canadian. But 5000,000! I sure could use some of that cash.

But I would like to say this:
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-California, needs to consult Edwards to get the name of his Hair Stylist!
Those Locks don't add Credability to his Position.
Posted By Tricia Charlottetown PEI Canada : 8:26 AM ET
Again we see another elected official, that represents the people, sitting in office obviously for himself and not those he represents. My taxes keep going up and all we hear about is how the government needs more money for schools and worth while programs, you mean to tell me the park is worth while and it will be used and benefitted by the Amercican public?

How about we, the people, start holding these officials accountable for their actions or lack of. I know a dozen soldiers that would benefit from $500,000.00 for limbs lost overseas. I am sure they feel much better knowing They traded a leg or arm for a park for Jerry to visit.

We wonder why our government is not trusted and people do not vote any more. Let raise taxes again, this time maybe we can give Jerry a nice shiny bathroom in that park.
Posted By S.L. Clarks Summit, Pa. : 8:38 AM ET
I have emailed all the Reps./Sens. in Tennessee, where I lived for 22 years, and my current legislators in Colorado as well. No responses... go figure.
Posted By Hayley : 5:13 PM ET
I will have to email John Lewis. I am so diappointed in his behavior toward you. He lives four streets over from me in Atlanta, Georgia. He lives in a modest home and in a modest neighborhood. He never should have treated you that way, but he is a humble person. Take it from me Drew, he has paid his home off decades ago and has plenty of money where he can purchase an upscale place in Washington. Keep trying to keep them honest on the earmarks.
Posted By Anne; Atlanta, Georgia : 5:26 PM ET
This kind of blatant misappropriation is not surprising. What is surprising to me is the price tag. I live in the DC area and I know the exact park that is mentioned here. Hell, I could beautify that area with $5,000 and a rake and a shovel. I would love to be the contractor receiving this pork.
Posted By Kyle McCreary : 5:33 PM ET
Hi Drew

I emailed my California Congressman, Adam Schiff, several weeks ago, and asked him for his earmarks. Never heard back from his office.

Ricardo, Glendale, California
Posted By Anonymous : 2:08 PM ET
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