FBI probing ex-Rep. Sweeney

Federal agents raided the offices of an Albany, N.Y., lobbying firm as part of an investigation focused on the relationship between former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) and influential lobbyist William Powers and federal grants steered to Powers’s clients.

The probe appears to debunk the theory among some legal analysts that the Justice Department is less likely to focus on members of Congress who leave office.

The criminal investigation is looking into a series of federal grants Sweeney steered to Powers’s clients while his ex-wife, Gayle, worked for the lobbying firm, according to the Albany Times Union, which first reported the Friday raid.

In that way, it parallels the Justice investigation of retiring Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), whose wife Julie allegedly worked on behalf of Jack Abramoff. Sweeney took an Abramoff-organized trip to the Northern Mariana Islands in 2001, but it is unclear if the investigation is an expansion of the Abramoff probe or completely separate.

FBI agents from Albany and Washington descended on Powers & Co.’s offices Friday morning. They confiscated files and interviewed employees who were encouraged to remain in the office. Powers, 66, became a lobbyist after stepping down as GOP state chairman in 2001.