Aides to Calif. Rep. Doolittle appear before Abramoff grand jury |

Aides to Calif. Rep. Doolittle appear before Abramoff grand jury

WASHINGTON (AP) ” Rep. John Doolittle’s scheduler and deputy chief of staff appeared Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating the California Republican’s ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Doolittle’s spokesman said.

The scheduler, Alisha Perkins, and Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Blankenburg were among three Doolittle aides subpoenaed in recent days. Chief of Staff Ron Rogers is scheduled to testify Friday before the grand jury at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Doolittle spokesman Gordon Hinkle said the congressman had no comment on the grand jury proceedings. The aides’ court appearances come five months after the FBI raided Doolittle’s home in Virginia looking for information about bookkeeping work his wife, Julie Doolittle, did for Abramoff.

Doolittle and his wife have denied wrongdoing.

Blankenburg, who’s worked for Doolittle since 2005, issued a brief statement Wednesday evening.

“This morning I testified before the federal grand jury. Overall, it was a very uneventful experience. I was questioned primarily about the operations of our office,” the statement said. “To me, the process represents a necessary and promising step toward the truth.”

Perkins did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Justice Department spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch declined comment.

Abramoff is cooperating in a wide-ranging influence-peddling probe that’s already produced convictions against a dozen people, including former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and former deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles.

Doolittle has numerous ties to the lobbyist. He accepted campaign donations from Abramoff, used his NBA sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it as required, and intervened with the Interior Department on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients.

Doolittle’s wife, Julie, who runs a home fundraising and event-planning business, worked for Abramoff on monthly retainer from September 2002 through February 2004. She was paid a total of $66,690. Her company’s records were subpoenaed in 2004 in the Abramoff probe.

After his house was raided in April, Doolittle surrendered his seat on the House Appropriations Committee. Representing a heavily Republican district in far northern California, Doolittle has been a member of Congress nearly 17 years.

Doolittle is facing increasing political pressure from Republicans fearful he could not win re-election, and several locally known Republicans are considering challenging him in next year’s GOP primary. Doolittle was re-elected narrowly last year amid questions about his ties to Abramoff, but has said he intends to run again in 2008.

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