San Diego Big-name Washington lobbyists have been chipping in to Brian Bilbray's congressional campaign. Fellow-GOPer Susan Molinari, the former New York congresswoman, now a lobbyist and TV commentator, gave $500. Another donor was Jean Denton, who at the time of her $1000 contribution on July 14 was listed as an attorney with Copeland Lowery Jacquez and Denton, the controversial D.C. lobbying outfit being investigated for its relationship with San Bernardino congressman Jerry Lewis. In late June it was announced that the firm's three Republican partners -- Denton, ex-San Diego city councilman and former congressman Bill Lowery, and Letitia White -- were leaving to form a separate company after federal investigators began looking into White and her close ties to Lewis, for whom she worked for 20 years before signing on at Copeland Lowery in 2003. Lowery and Lewis are also said to be close friends. In May a federal grand jury issued subpoenas to many of the firm's clients, including the cities of Redlands and San Bernardino and some big defense contractors, seeking details regarding federal funds that Lewis had secured through Congress's so-called earmarking process, by which members make last-minute changes in spending bills to benefit special interests, many of which are campaign contributors.
The Lowery scandal has touched the San Diego State University Research Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of the school. Back on January 10, Frea Sladek, then the foundation's director, felt compelled to dispatch an e-mail to boardmembers, reassuring them about a project for which Copeland Lowery had helped secure funding. "From time to time I've mentioned the Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technology, one of the large SDSURF-administered partnership programs that has been funded through appropriations obtained by our Washington representative, former Congressman Bill Lowery," Sladek wrote. "You may have seen his and Congressman Jerry Lewis' names in the U-T recently, noting the close relationship between them and drawing attention to the many appropriations (mainly those in Congressman Lewis' San Bernardino area) that have been obtained. The articles state there is nothing illegal but do draw attention to the relationships and large amounts of funding. The appropriations we've received for CCAT are doing many good things."
Meanwhile, the campaign of Bilbray's Democratic rival, Francine Busby, has picked up a total of $1700 from Lowell Blankfort, the retired publisher from Chula Vista. Barbara Bry, the former L.A. Times writer and founding editor of a local news website, gave $2000, and Del Mar literary agent Sandra Dijkstra contributed $1150.