Saturday, September 09, 2006

John Doolittle

Abramoff connections

John Doolittle has been entangled in the scandal involving Jack Abramoff. Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing, and on April 18, 2006 he hired a former prosecutor from Ken Starr's office as his media adviser on the matter.

Campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients

Doolittle estimated that he received about $50,000 from clients of Abramoff, mostly Indian tribes.[14] Abramoff also personally donated $14,000 over the period 1999-2004 to Doolittle's congressional campaigns.[15] According to the Washington Post, Doolittle "was particularly close to Abramoff." Doolittle said he always thought of Abramoff as "a friend" for a single reason: "I liked him, frankly, because he was a partisan, conservative Republican activist.". Unlike many lawmakers, Doolittle has refused to give away any of the Abramoff money.

Fund raising by Abramoff for Doolittle

An "ardent opponent of casino gambling," Doolittle held a fundraiser at Jack Abramoff's skybox at the MCI Center in February, 1999. Abramoff, who rented the boxes himself, billed Indian tribes lobbying fees to cover his cost. These tribes had hired Abramoff to represent their casino interests.

Under federal campaign finance law, Doolittle was required to pay Abramoff for use of the box, or to report the use as an "in-kind" contribution from Abramoff to his campaign. Doolittle initially failed to report the use of the sky-boxes in his Federal Election Committee filings. In late 2004, his spokesperson, Laura Blackman, said "It was an in-kind contribution, and it was an oversight that it wasn't reported, but we are taking steps to correct that."

In January 2005, Doolittle reported that his campaign fund had sent a check for $1,040 to one of Abramoff's former employers, the Preston Gates lobbying firm, to pay for the skybox. The lobbying firm returned the check because it had never owned the skybox. In May 2005, Doolittle campaign-fund spokesman Richard Robinson acknowledged that the rejection of the check should have been reported to the FEC and said a corrected accounting would be filed. Robinson said Doolittle's fund is determined to rectify the six-year lapse in paying for the box. "If we find out that Jack Abramoff paid for the suite, then we'll reimburse Jack Abramoff, because we want to reimburse the person or entity who paid for the box," Robinson said. "We thought we were doing that in January."

Payments to Doolittle's wife by Abramoff

From August 2002 through February 2004, Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig paid Julie Doolittle $66,000. Initially her work to help plan a fundraiser for Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation, called the Spy Game Gala, that was to be MC'ed by Tony Snow. The event never happened because it coincided with the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. According to the initial statement by her attorney, the $66,000 in payments from Abramoff were because she "primarily performed public relations and other event planning services for the Spy Museum event."

She was paid a total of $27,000 through February of 2003, when payments stopped. In July 2003, Abramoff (via Greenberg Traurig) began paying her again, $5,000 per month; this continued through mid-February 2004, when the first story on what would become the Abramoff scandal was published.

In a statement in June 2006, her attorney, William Stauffer, said that "Sierra Dominion, a small business owned by Julie Doolittle, provided marketing, event planning, and related services to the Greenberg Traurig law firm, and its partner, Jack Abramoff, from August 2002 through March 2004." "Sierra Dominion had a retainer arrangement with Greenberg Traurig under which it provided services concerning the Spy Museum event and also the Signatures and Stacks restaurants". (The two restaurants were owned by Abramoff.)

Julie Doolittle's records in connection with her work for Abramoff have been subpoenaed by the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ has not filed any charges in neither case.

No explanation has been given as to why Greenberg Taurig made the payments to Julie Doolittle, rather than the foundation (for whom the charity event was planned) or the restaurants or Abramoff personally (as restaurant owner).

Doolittle's actions on behalf of Indian tribes

In a February, 2002, Doolittle was among more than two dozen lawmakers who signed a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton urging her to reject an Indian casino opposed by Abramoff's tribal clients. [21]

In early June 2003, Kevin Ring, a former staffer to Doolittle and a lobbyist at Greenberg Taurig, brought members the Iowan Sac & Fox tribe to meet with Doolittle in his office. In mid-June, Doolittle wrote a letter to Norton complaining that the tribe's casino was wrongly shut down because the Bureau of Indian Affairs had refused to recognize a newly elected tribal council. Another lobbyist involved in the matter was Michael D. Smith, formerly Al Gore's Midwest political director, and a member of Team Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig. Doolittle's action helped the Tribe to reopen the casino, a major enterprise for the tribe and its reservation. Eventually, the faction supported by Doolittle won control of the Tribal government in a government supervised election, by a 4-1 margin. Others involved in the effort included Senator Byron Dorgan (D- N.D).

In October, 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to Norton for quicker action for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, which was seeking federal recognition; the tribe was also a client of Greenberg Traurig, and Kevin Ring was a lobbyist on the account.

Doolittle's actions on behalf of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

One of Abramoff's major clients was the government (Commonwealth) of the Northern Mariana Islands. Doolittle visited the islands in February of 1999 as part of a congressional delegation. In April of 2000 and April of 2001, he met with CNMI House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial in Washington D.C. On May 25, 2001, the Saipan Tribune printed a letter from Doolittle to Fitial, which noted a recent $150,000 earmark, mentioned two possible Army Corps of Engineers projects on the islands, and said "I will urge the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to include funding for the feasibility study for both projects in the FY 2002 appropriations bill." In August 2001, he backed Fitial's candidacy for governor. Doolittle was successful in securing $400,000 in Corps study funds in 2001, his first year on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Doolittle accepted $14,000 in contributions from Jack Abramoff just weeks before Doolittle endorsed the election of Fitial, a CNMI politician who had been crucial to Abramoff getting a lobbying contract from that government. The final Abramoff donation to Doolittle came as the last CNMI lobbying contract was expiring in December 2001. In the governor's election in early 2002, Fitial lost. The new governor, Juan N. Babauta, cancelled the contract with Greenberg Traurig.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a purported man of relgious conviction, Doolittle could sure use a lesson in personal ethics.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but I am aghast that any self respecting conservative republican could cast a vote for John Doolittle. The man is quite simply put, immoral and unscrupulous. As I watched the debate, I could have sworn he was having trouble recalling the name of his district, since he spends so little time thinking about it or acting on it's behalf, it is no surprise. Well, he will not have my vote, he does not deserve it.

2:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home