Thursday, January 10, 2008

Did Doolittle Do Too Much?

Via TPM:
Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who is under investigation in a congressional lobbying scandal (related to Jack Abramoff's revelations about GOP graft in Congress. Ed.), plans to announce his retirement from Congress on Thursday, according to a Republican official who spoke with Doolittle.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending a public announcement in Doolittle's Northern California district.

The development comes as Doolittle, in his ninth term, faced growing political pressure from fellow Republicans who viewed him as a liability because of his involvement, along with his wife, Julie, in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling investigation. House Republicans, still smarting from losing control of Congress in 2006, are eager to put that ethics taint behind them.

Doolittle came close to losing re-election in 2006 in one of the most conservative districts in California and some in his own party believed he couldn't survive this time around.
Politico provides some background:
federal grand jury has issued document subpoenas to six aides to embattled GOP Rep. John Doolittle (Calif.), who is under investigation by the Justice Department over his ties to imprisoned former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The subpoenas were issued to Ron Rogers, Doolittle's chief of staff; Dan Blankenburg, deputy chief of staff; Alisha Perkins, scheduler; Evan Goitein, legislative director; Martha Franco, senior executive assistant; and Gordon Hinkle, field rep.

The subpoenas are the latest sign that the federal corruption probe of Doolittle is continuing to gather steam. Doolittle's home was searched by FBI agents earlier this year. The agents were looking for any evidence regarding Doolittle's ties to Abramoff. Julie Doolittle, the congressman's wife, did consulting work for Abramoff, and Doolittle himself wrote letters to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of several of Abramoff's Indian gaming clients.

Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing, and he has accused the Justice Department of harassing him and his wife, but after his home was searched, House GOP leaders forced him to give up his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Doolittle's office could not be reached for comment on the subpoenas prior to this post.

UPDATE: Doolittle’s lawyer said in a statement that the lawmaker has been subpoenaed for his legislative records going back 11 years. Doolittle will fight the subpoena, arguing that this investigation violates the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches, according to attorney David Barger.

“As was disclosed on the floor of the House, the Executive Branch has chosen after more than three years of this open investigation, to issue numerous subpoenas to the Congressman’s staff,” Barger said. “These efforts raise serious constitutional issues going to the very core of our Separation of Powers created by the founding fathers; issues that affect every Member of Congress not just Congressman Doolittle.”

According to Barger, the staff members have been assured by the Department of Justice that they are merely witnesses. The staff members will confer with the House Office of the General Counsel to determine how to respond to the subpoenas.
Here's a guy without whom Congress will not become any the poorer, ethically if not financially.

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