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US House chairman disputes report of probe

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) A top Republican lawmaker has disputed a report that identified him as the latest target in a series of federal investigations of members of the US Congress.

The Los Angeles Times quoted sources as saying authorities had begun an investigation of California Rep. Jerry Lewis' relationship with a lobbyist linked to convicted former Rep. Randy ''Duke'' Cunningham.

Lewis said he had no knowledge of an investigation and denied wrongdoing in the awarding of contracts as the powerful chairman of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

''Neither I nor any of my staff has been contacted by the Department of Justice with regard to an investigation into my congressional service,'' Lewis said in a statement yesterday.

''In my 40 years of public service, I have insisted on the highest standards of integrity for myself and my staff,'' he said.

A number of federal investigations involving mostly Republicans have raised Democratic hopes they can win back control of Congress in the November elections.

The Los Angeles Times quoted sources as saying the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into Lewis' ties to lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former congressman.

The newspaper quoted one source as saying Lewis helped Lowery's clients get hundred of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office did not immediately return calls for comment. Lowery also did not return a call.

The Times said Lowery's clients include Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor who it said has been identified by his lawyer as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case.

Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned from Congress in November after pleading guilty to taking 2.4 million dollar in bribes in exchange for helping secure defense contracts. He was subsequently sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

REUTERS PDS PM0335

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