U.S. Rep. Brain Bilbray hauled in more than $85,000 in campaign contributions in the last week, according to financial reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. But one of those contributions is more noteworthy than the rest.

On Saturday, Bilbray received $1,600 from Bill Lowery, a lobbyist, former San Diego congressman and former city councilman, who played a bit part in the scandal that led to the downfall of Bilbray’s predecessor, Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Lowery introduced his successor, Cunningham, to Brent Wilkes, the founder of the defense firm ADCS Inc. Wilkes is one of two co-conspirators who allegedly plied Cunningham with millions in cash and gifts in return for Cunningham’s steering government business their way.

But Lowery is currently playing a much bigger role in another ongoing investigation that’s focused on his relationship with close friend and former colleague Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands.

Lewis, who serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, used earmarks to guide hundreds of millions of dollars to Lowery’s lobbying clients. Lowery, who made millions for his efforts, his employees and some of his clients have in turn contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Lewis’ campaigns. At the same time, several members of Lewis’ staff have profited handsomely by bouncing between jobs in Lowery and Lewis’ offices, and Lewis’ step daughter has benefited from some of the earmarks.

A federal grand jury issued several subpoenas in June but no charges have been filed in the case. Both Lewis and Lowery have denied wrongdoing.

That brings us back to Bilbray, who, campaign finance records show, also accepted $8,000 from Lewis’ campaign committee in 2006.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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