Jeff Shockey, a key aide to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), amended his 2004 financial disclosure forms yesterday to show that he earned more than $2 million that year in salary as a lobbyist for a company whose ties to Lewis are under investigation by the Justice Department.
A source close to Shockey said the amended report helps justify a $1.9 million buyout Shockey received for his share in the firm of Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton and White because it shows that he had a higher salary at the firm than previously disclosed.
Shockey left the firm and went back to work for Lewis when he became chairman of the Appropriations committee in 2005. He previously worked for Lewis for several years, leaving in 1999 to become a partner at Copeland, Lowery.
Shockey initially reported an income of more than $1.5 million for 2004, and the new, adjusted amount is slightly more than $2 million.
“The lower figure represents his 2003 income and was included in the New Employee [for Congress] report because Mr. Shockey’s 2004 tax return had not been finalized at the time the New Employee report was finalized,” wrote Shockey’s attorneys, William Oldaker and William Farah, in a letter accompanying the amended disclosure.
The need to adjust the amount of income disclosed on the new employee report was discovered earlier this week, his attorneys wrote.
In the letter, the lawyers maintained that “it is not unusual for persons who receive a large share of their income from partnerships to obtain an extension of time to file their returns. This allows the partnership sufficient time to make all necessary calculations and to issue Form K-1s to the firm’s partners. This was the case for Mr. Shockey.”
The lawyers said the IRS granted Shockey an extension to file his return, and noted that the return was not completed until August 2005.
But Keith Ashdown with the watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense believes the timing of Shockey’s amended 2004 filing is “very suspect.” He argued that Shockey knew what taxes he owed in August of 2005, and even so, it took him nine months to file the amended report.
Ashdown also said that $2 million for a junior partner of any lobbying firm is a “very high” salary.
“The $2 million seems a little too good to be true,” said Ashdown. “It appears that he may have had the highest wages of anyone at the firm. The math does not work.”
Last Friday, Shockey’s attorneys released updated 2005 financial disclosure records showing that he received a $1.9 million buyout for his share in Copeland Lowery in three installments of approximately $600,000, beginning in 2004 just before he went to work for Lewis as the spending panel’s deputy staff director after Lewis won the chairmanship in early 2005.
The $600,000 figure was reported in the original 2004 financial disclosure report and media reports cited that figure as severance pay Shockey received before going to work for a far less lucrative position on the Appropriations panel.
According to the updated financial disclosure form, the payments were part of a “separation/buy out” agreement for “ownership in and undistributed profits” from the firm. Shockey received the last of the three payments last year.
The FBI has examined the personal financial disclosure records of Lewis, Shockey, as well as Letitia White, who was Lewis’s top aide on defense earmarks until leaving that position in 2003 to become a partner at Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton and White.
While aides regularly leave Congress to take private sector jobs, a practice known as the revolving-door, the Justice Department is investigating whether anything unlawful took place as part of its probe of the Congressional earmarking system, which initially focused on former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).
Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes last year, resigned his seat and is now in prison.