Lewis, through his campaign committee, will pay some costs of the litigation, including copying and filing fees, Tambussi said. The bills are being generated, Tambussi said, so he did not give a figure. But the total is not expected to approach what the state and the GOP spent to disqualify Lewis' candidacy.
Several GOP officials said a service contribution as big as Tambussi's should be reported.
"It's a $100,000 contribution by Tambussi and the firm to Carl Lewis," said Mark Sheridan, who argued the case for the Burlington County GOP and is being paid by the Republican Senate Majority committee. "There are contribution limits for a reason: to limit influence."
Tambussi, who has represented many Democratic candidates and organizations as well as the firm of Democratic leader George E. Norcross 3d, said Republicans are just whining.
"Maybe they should get lawyers who truly believe in their causes instead of those that just want to be paid for it," Tambussi said. "This is not new. I'm part of a team that wants to help Democrats in South Jersey in preserving the political process. Carl Lewis running in that district would have been monumental . . . that helps the political process."
Tambussi, who has been practicing law in South Jersey since 1983, discloses to the state his campaign contributions and how much he earns doing legal work for various municipalities and other agencies.
In 2010, he earned more than $3.4 million in contracts with public agencies and contributed $53,600 to candidates and committees, according to his most recent report to the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Although he would not disclose his exact billing rate, he said he would have made about $140,000 (what Sheridan expects to make once the bills are all paid) if he had been compensated for the Lewis case.
The dollar value of a voluntary-service contribution such as the one Tambussi gave to Lewis is unusual, said Jeffrey M. Brindle, executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
But while it is legal for a lawyer to volunteer his time to a campaign, any of his or her employees who spend time on the matter are supposed to file their work as in-kind contributions, which are limited to $2,600 per person. The purpose for the restriction is to prevent an employer from compelling employees to work for a particular political candidate or party.
If the associates agree to volunteer their time, they don't have to file anything, Brindle said. But there are restrictions: Those volunteers must show that they were not paid for the hours they worked on the case, that they did not perform work on the case during work hours, and that they did not use office resources to prepare the case.
Tambussi said that's exactly what happened. If any of the other lawyers were in court for a Lewis hearing during normal working hours, they would stay late or work weekends to make up their other work, he said.
"It didn't disrupt their other work; they wanted to be part of it," Tambussi said of the four lawyers who worked with him. "We don't have 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. hours here. I find it hard to believe any successful law firm would."
No paralegal or secretary assisted with the case, he said. And Lewis will pay for courier fees, filing fees, photocopying, and other office costs, he said.
GOP sources said they found it hard to believe that Tambussi's effort was all-volunteer, but Brindle said a scenario like this sounded legal.
"It's not a common occurrence," Brindle said of the dollar value of Tambussi's volunteer work. "But, again, it is within the law in terms of the facts that we know."
Tambussi agreed that he did a significant amount of free legal work for Lewis, but the case in itself was unusual. It's rare that a residency challenge reaches all levels of state and federal court with the exception of the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.
In one way, he said, he's glad the Republicans spent such a significant sum to remove Lewis: It leaves them less for other races.
As for state attorneys, Tambussi questions why they fought so hard to toss Lewis off the ballot, but made no move to remove Edward "NJ Weedman.com" Forchion. Forchion, 47, a self-proclaimed "pothead" who disagrees with the state's drug laws, is on the ballot as a candidate for Assembly in the same district in which Lewis tried to run. Forchion has lived in California for the last three years.
"It was the extensive efforts taken by the Republicans that made [the Lewis case] extraordinary," Tambussi said. "The state could have stopped at any point."
Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org, 856-779-3237, or @joellefarrell on Twitter.