Congressman Doolittle outraised by GOP, Democratic challengers | SierraSun.com

Congressman Doolittle outraised by GOP, Democratic challengers

Erica Werner
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) ” GOP Rep. John Doolittle of Rocklin, under federal investigation in a Capitol Hill lobbying scandal, is lagging behind Republican and Democratic challengers in fundraising amid growing GOP concerns about whether he can win re-election.

The nine-term conservative raised just over $50,000 during the third quarter of this year, significantly less than GOP newcomer Eric Egland, who reported nearly $80,000 in donations.

Democrat Charlie Brown outdid them both, raising $212,000 in the quarter.

Brown came close to beating Doolittle last year even though Doolittle’s rural Northern California district is among the most conservative in the state. Doolittle is facing growing political pressure from Republican activists in California and Washington who increasingly fear that next year he would not survive.

“Party leaders will see this as greater evidence that John Doolittle should just announce he is not running for re-election,” said Jeff Flint, a GOP strategist who runs a political blog in the district. “The Republican Party would have to spend millions to save what should be a safe seat.”

Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing in his ties to jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but after FBI agents raided his home in April he gave up his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

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Last month Doolittle and six of his current and former staffers were served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury in Washington investigating those connections, which include payments Abramoff made to Doolittle’s wife, Julie, to plan a fundraiser that ended up getting canceled.

Doolittle retains committed supporters in his district. The Republican central committees in Placer and El Dorado counties have passed resolutions urging him to seek re-election. But in Washington party leaders have passed up opportunities to speak up for him.

Doolittle campaign consultant Richard Temple acknowledged that GOP leaders are concerned but said the incumbent hasn’t been asked to step aside.

“If they were going to do that, it’s too early. John deserves his chance to put himself in position to win,” said Temple. He said Doolittle was raising money on pace with what he did in the last election cycle and would continue to work hard.

“It’s certainly a bigger challenge. He’s got problems he has to deal with, I don’t mean to sugarcoat it. But he’s working harder,” Temple said.

Doolittle also reported debts of nearly $35,000, and ended the reporting period Sept. 30 with just about $38,000 cash on-hand. Egland, an Air Force reservist who campaigned for Doolittle last year, had $77,700 cash on-hand and Brown had over $380,000.

Another Republican candidate, Auburn city councilman Mike Holmes, reported just over $12,000 in contributions and over $17,000 in cash on-hand. Republican state Assemblyman Ted Gaines has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run but didn’t file fundraising numbers with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

Doolittle is also raising money for a legal defense fund to pay his mounting legal bills but won’t have to report how much he’s raised in that fund until Oct. 30.

Another California Republican who’s the focus of a different federal lobbying investigation, Rep. Jerry Lewis of Redlands, reported raising $67,000 in the quarter but still ended up with nearly $1 million cash on-hand because of past fundraising success. Lewis, who’s running for a 16th term, is likely to face token opposition in his conservative inland Southern California district despite scrutiny from federal prosecutors in Los Angeles of his ties to a lobbyist.

Lewis reported paying just over $17,000 to his criminal defense attorneys during the quarter. He also reported making one donation to a fellow congressman: $2,000 to Doolittle.

Meanwhile in California’s most competitive congressional district ” the only one to change party hands last year ” Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney raised $234,000 compared to $101,220 for Republican challenger Dean Andal from July 1-Sept. 30. McNerney ended the quarter with $758,000 cash on-hand while Andal had $351,000.

GOP leaders are eager to retake the Republican-leaning 11th Congressional District that straddles the Central Valley and eastern San Francisco Bay area. The district had been represented by Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy, the powerful chairman of the House Resources Committee, before his surprise loss last November to McNerney, a political neophyte.