The Lewis Group of Companies has built thousands of homes and dozens of shopping centers, office buildings and industrial parks from the San Gabriel Valley to the High Desert.
But the Upland-based company has helped shape more than the region's physical landscape: It's emerged as both a major philanthropic force and a significant political player as well.
Over the years, Lewis has given millions to charitable causes and - in the past six years alone - nearly $2.3 million to political campaigns.
In recent months, it's the politics that have made headlines, focusing on the company's long and close relationship with Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, who also represents Diamond Bar, Chino and Chino Hills.
Oh, great! Here we go again! Developers are buying off Gary Miller, so what else is new? Well, get a load of this!
Of all the company's political connections, its relationship with Miller - who declined to be interviewed for this story - has come under particular scrutiny over the past year.
The relationship dates back more than 30 years, to when Miller was a young developer. In recent years, he and Lewis have connected on a number of business deals:
The company entered into a business partnership with Miller in July 2004, with the congressman investing between $1 million and $5 million in a Lewis-owned, 70-acre housing and retail development in Diamond Bar that had just been approved by the City Council.
That same year, Lewis officials sold Miller several parcels in Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, allowing him to shield millions in profits from an earlier land sale from potential capital-gains taxes. The company loaned him $7.5 million for the sale.
Meanwhile, the company's top executives have donated $22,150 to the congressman's campaigns since 1999. (In that time, Miller has received a total of more than $2.3 million in contributions from individuals and political committees.)
Wow! It looks like Lewis did Gary Miller quite a few huge favors. So why did they do these favors for Miller? Why would Lewis loan Gary Miller money to buy Lewis land, all so that Miller could avoid paying capital-gains taxes?
Oh, wait! I see the reason now. Gary Miller soon returned the favor.
In August 2005, Miller secured $1.2 million in federal funding for improvements to Grand Avenue, a major artery through Diamond Bar that passes in front of the development he co-owned with Lewis. Miller sold his stake in the development in October 2005.
In the same legislation, he secured $6.8 million to help extend Pine Avenue to Highway 71 in Chino. City leaders touted the project as an important transportation link to The Preserve, a major Lewis master-planned community.
Miller also pushed for a provision to close Rialto Municipal Airport, which cleared the way for the Lewis Group to purchase the site. It has plans with a business partner, Hillwood Development Corp., to develop Rialto Renaissance, a planned community of housing, shopping and recreation.
Doesn't this just get sickening? I mean, the more I get to know Miller, the more I see why he's been named as one of the twenty most corrupt members of Congress. He's not in Congress to serve us the voters and us the taxpayers. He's there to engage in a type of legislative racketeering operation, and he's only there to line his own pockets at our expense.
Now yes, a member of Congress is supposed to work to bring home funds for one's own district. Yes, a member of Congress is supposed to fight for the best interest of one's constituents. However, neither of these is what Gary Miller is doing. No, he's only (mis)using his position of power to enrich himself on the taxpayer's dime. He's selling his votes to the highest bidder. And this helps no one in the district save for a certain Gary Miller.