Thanks in part to a Washington scandal, the San Diego State University Research Foundation, a major function of which is to come up with federal money for various projects at the school, is looking for a new lobbyist. The foundation has long employed ex-GOP congressman Bill Lowery, who abandoned his 1992 reelection bid after it was discovered he'd written 300 overdraft checks during a House banking scandal. After that, Lowery, who started his political career on the San Diego City Council, opened a lucrative lobbying business, lining up clients who were fishing for government money in the form of earmarks, the controversial special-interest measures usually inserted into bills in the dark of night. Lowery is friends with Republican congressman Jerry Lewis of San Bernardino and was a major Lewis fund-raiser. In return, Lewis aided such Lowery clients as ADCS, the defense-contracting firm owned by Brent Wilkes, now facing trial on charges related to his alleged role in paying bribes to Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
"Bill Lowery has had a close relationship with Jerry Lewis," Tom Scott, interim chief executive officer of the research foundation, said at a foundation board meeting last week. "Mr. Lewis is under some level of investigation himself, and we are concerned about the broad implications regarding the reputation of our own lobbyist." Scott added that the foundation had not been disappointed by Lowery's legendary rainmaking abilities. "Over the years we've paid him a total of $3 or $4 million and he's returned $70 million." Three lobbying firms are being considered to replace Lowery, said Scott. Interviews are set for October 15 on campus, and the public is invited to attend, he added. "We'd like to have a contract signed in December."