Pentagon recalled Lewis's approps staffer

The Pentagon has recalled Lt. Col. Carl Kime, a detailee who had worked nearly five years in the personal office of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, much of that time in apparent violation of House and Department of Defense rules.

The Department of Defense reassigned Kime, an active Marine officer, after a report in The Hill raised questions about whether his service for Lewis broke congressional and military rules. Lewis had defended Kime as “one of the smartest detailees I’ve ever had in my office.”

Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a spokeswoman in the Marine Corps office of public affairs, said that Kime will report for duty at Marine headquarters today but did not know where he would be reassigned. Kime left Lewis’s office at the beginning of last week.

A statement released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs reported that Kime was assigned to Lewis as part of a Department of Defense fellowship program in January 2001. He returned briefly to the Defense Department in 2002 but went back to Lewis’s office in 2003 as an exception to the Pentagon’s policy on detailees, according to the statement.

“While Carl is no longer part of my staff, he will always be part of the Lewis family,” Lewis said in a statement released by his office.

Kime held an influential position in Lewis’s personal office and had oversight on requests for earmarked funds in the defense appropriations bill, the largest of the annual spending bills, according to sources familiar with the workings of the House Appropriations Committee. Kime held the title of appropriations associate, the only aide to hold that title in Lewis’s personal office, according to the House directory.

Kime replaced Letitia White, who previously held the title and who handled Lewis’s requests for earmarked funds, according to sources knowledgeable with the inner workings of the Appropriations Committee. White left the Hill to become a lobbyist. While working for Lewis, Kime remained on the Pentagon’s payroll and didn’t receive a congressional salary, according to House disbursement records.

In a prior interview, Lewis said that Kime gave him “advice and counsel on a whole array of issues as they relate to my committee work.”

Groups tracking defense spending said that Kime’s influence over defense spending while remaining employed by the Pentagon created a conflict of interest.

“As a military professional, he should not be involved in handing out pork,” said John Isaacs, the president of the liberal-leaning Council for a Livable World, who has worked on defense issues since the late 1970s. “It seems to me there are double, triple conflicts of interest.”

Having a Marine officer in such an influential position for so long may have also irritated members of the Army, Air Force and Navy who compete for appropriations on Capitol Hill.

Kime’s service for Lewis appeared to violate the Members’ Congressional Handbook issued by the Committee for House Administration, which defines a detailee as a “non-congressional federal employee assigned to a committee for a period of up to one year.” The handbook also states that “detailees may not be assigned to a member office” and cites the relevant section of U.S. law: 2 USC Section 72a(f).

Lewis defended his aide when alerted about the apparent violation.

“I’ve had military detailees since I’ve been in the Congress, almost every year, and they’ve been responsive to me,” he said. “I don’t read the handbooks, but I know who they work for and they respond to my interests.”

Kime’s service also appeared to violate a Department of Defense regulation that mandates that detailees “be limited to performing duties for a specific duration, in a specific project and as a member of a staff of a committee of the Congress.”