Jerry Lewis, Master of the Congressional Earmark, Dies at 86

Jerry Lewis, a strong House Republican whose largess to his district in California established him as a grasp of the earmark however led to an investigation of his actions by the Justice Department, died on July 15 at his dwelling in Redlands, Calif. He was 86.

His son Dan confirmed the loss of life however mentioned he didn’t know the trigger.

Mr. Lewiswas elected in 1978 and served 17 phrases in the House. A conservative who most popular working with Democrats to confrontational politics, he was a significant fund-raiser for Republican candidates; his get together’s third-ranking member, as convention chairman; and, briefly, chairman of the highly effective House Appropriations Committee.

“He represented a style of politics that no longer dominates the party,” John H. Pitney Jr., an aide of Mr. Lewis’s in the mid-1980s who’s now a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in California, mentioned by telephone. “He was very much an ally of Bob Michel” — the former House minority chief from Maryland — “and never a favorite of the Gingrich faction, which took him down from the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference” in 1992. (Newt Gingrich, then the House minority whip and later the speaker, supported the profitable candidacy of Dick Armey of Texas over Mr. Lewis.).

Mr. Lewis was finest recognized for sending monumental sums of a refund to his district by way of the use of earmarks, provisions in congressional spending payments that direct funds to a particular recipient. He despatched tens of thousands and thousands of dollars to academic, medical and analysis establishments, army installations, a dam on the Santa Ana River, in depth tree clearing in the San Bernardino National Forest and different tasks in his Southern California district.

In 2005, when he grew to become chairman of the Appropriations Committee — after six years as chairman of its protection subcommittee — he instructed The Press-Enterprise of Riverside about his ambition for his district.

“My goal as chairman is not just to create a huge funnel to San Bernardino and Riverside counties,” he mentioned. “But I have a feeling we will in California manage to get our share.”

But in 2006, the Justice Department started an investigation into whether or not Mr. Lewis had improperly steered thousands and thousands of dollars in earmarks to purchasers of a lobbyist, Bill Lowery, a former Republican congressman from California and an outdated buddy. Some of the purchasers donated to Mr. Lewis’s re-election marketing campaign.

Subpoenas had been issued looking for particulars about how communities and companies in Mr. Lewis’s district selected to rent Mr. Lowery’s agency, how a lot they paid, and the nature of communications between the agency and Mr. Lewis.

Four years later, the Justice Department dropped the investigation.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that had been crucial of Mr. Lewis’s ties to Mr. Lowery, condemned the Justice Department’s resolution.

“Exactly what will a politician have to do for the Department of Justice to sit up and take notice?” Melanie Sloan, then the group’s govt director, mentioned in an interview with The Associated Press.

Looking again on the investigation in 2012, shortly earlier than he retired from the House, Mr. Lewis instructed the Southern California public radio station KPCC, “It’ll always be there, and the reality is that we have attempted to be a positive impact in public service.”

Charles Jeremy Lewis was born on Oct. 21, 1934, in Seattle and moved along with his household to San Bernardino, Calif., as a toddler. His father, Edward, was a civil engineer who labored on the development of New Deal tasks. His mom, Ruth, was a homemaker.

After learning veterinary science at the University of California, Berkeley, he transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, the place he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in political science.

After working in the insurance coverage enterprise, Mr. Lewis served on the San Bernardino Board of Education after which was elected to the California State Assembly. He served there for a decade. During his tenure, he pushed for voter approval to make a reporter defend legislation — to guard the confidentiality of sources — an modification to the state structure and wrote laws that established an air air pollution management company in Southern California.

Once elected to the House, he was named to the Appropriations Committee in his second time period and have become chairman of the subcommittee that funds the Department of Veterans Affairs, NASA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Four years later he took over the protection subcommittee. His two years as Appropriations Committee chairman resulted in 2007, after Democrats received the House majority.

In addition to his son Dan, Mr. Lewis is survived by his spouse, Arlene (Willis) Lewis; a daughter, Jenifer Engler; two different sons, Jerry Jr., and Jeff; a stepdaughter, Julie Willis Leon; two stepsons, Jimmy and Marty Willis; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two brothers, Ray and John. His marriage to Sally Lord resulted in divorce.

Having the identical identify as a well-known comic was one thing that trailed Mr. Lewis all through his profession.

“He had a good sense of humor” about it, Dan Lewis mentioned. He recalled his father campaigning at a parade in Apple Valley, Calif., the place individuals had been desperate to see the funnyman, not the lawmaker. The crowd may need been disenchanted, he mentioned, however the congressman “wasn’t annoyed.”