Doolittle says he holds no fear of the truth
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – GOP Rep. John Doolittle accused the government Sunday of leaking word of an FBI search on his home to coincide with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ Senate testimony on the fired U.S. attorneys controversy.
Doolittle, who’s under scrutiny in the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal, made the allegation in an op-ed published in the Auburn Journal.
FBI agents executed a search warrant on Doolittle’s home in Virginia on Friday April 13. News of the search became public on Wednesday April 18, and Gonzales appeared before a Senate committee on April 19.
“I do not believe it was a coincidence that the leak came the day before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress on charges that his office was overly partisan in its firing of eight U.S. Attorneys,” wrote Doolittle, “especially considering Gonzales specifically cited his recent prosecution of Republican members of Congress as evidence to the contrary.”
Doolittle contended the timing and execution of the search “clearly indicate that there was more behind the search of our home than the pursuit of justice.”
The search warrant sought information about a fundraising business run from the home by Doolittle’s wife, Julie, that had done work for Abramoff’s firm.
Abramoff, once a high-powered GOP lobbyist, is in jail and cooperating with the government after admitting defrauding his clients with promises of access to Congress and the executive branch.
“I now believe that the search of our home was in large measure an attempt to strong arm my wife in order to get me to admit to a crime ” a crime that I did not commit,” Doolittle wrote.
“Despite that fact, we have been subjected to leaks by the government, which in turn have led to irresponsible speculation and sensationalized reporting by the media, which in turn has led to the erosion of support and trust of my constituents,” wrote Doolittle.
Doolittle complained that during the search Julie, who was home alone, “was sequestered in the kitchen and not allowed to move without an escort. She was not even allowed to use the bathroom in our own home without an FBI agent escorting her there.”
He claimed that agents seized personal items such as his wife’s iPod ” but left behind an accordion file with information about work Julie Doolittle had done for Abramoff.
He said he was convinced the search “had much more to do with an attempt to intimidate us and garner media attention than the pursuit of the truth.”
Doolittle nearly lost re-election last year amid questions about his ethics. After the raid on his home he relinquished his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, leaving him without a committee assignment.
The Abramoff investigation has netted 11 convictions of GOP aides, Bush administration officials and others. One former member of Congress, GOP Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and making false statements.
WASHINGTON (AP) “Kevin Ring was Rep. John Doolittle’s top Washington aide, as well as a friend and ideological soul mate. Now he is a key link between Doolittle and jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a sprawling congressional corruption investigation.
Ring, Doolittle’s one-time legislative director, quit his lobbying job last month, the same day FBI agents raided Doolittle’s Virginia home. They had a search warrant for a fundraising business run there by Doolittle’s wife, Julie, that had done work for Abramoff’s firm.
Ring had acted as a go-between when Doolittle wanted Abramoff ” who is cooperating with the government ” to find work for Mrs. Doolittle.
Doolittle said Thursday he understands his wife’s work might be under scrutiny.
“That’s the issue, apparently, that Julie didn’t do any real work … their theory seems to be that she’s a conduit,” Doolittle told reporters. “And there’s clear evidence that disproves that.”
Ring figures prominently in his former boss’ connections to Abramoff, who gave the congressman campaign cash and use of his sports box. Doolittle, who has denied wrongdoing, tried to advance the agendas of Abramoff’s clients, Indian tribes and others, both in Congress and with the Bush administration.
What Ring tells prosecutors could determine Doolittle’s fate.
“The incentive for the subordinate to cooperate is to save his own skin by implicating a superior,” said Kenneth Gross, a political law attorney in Washington.
Ring’s connection to the scandal runs contrary to the conservative, hardworking, humorous colleague that ex-Doolittle staffers remember.
They say Ring and Doolittle developed a friendship around their shared conservative views when Ring joined Doolittle’s staff as an intern in 1993, straight off Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign. Both men were religious: Doolittle a Mormon and Ring a Catholic.
Former co-workers say Ring did funny impressions of Buchanan and of Doolittle. He later authored a book on the writings of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Ring and Doolittle were both “very strong in their convictions,” said Terra Brusseau, Doolittle’s former scheduler. She described both men as “very morally grounded.”
Glenn Buberl, Ring’s predecessor as legislative director, said he was “very surprised and disappointed” to see Ring caught up in a Washington scandal.
“You could see those potential weaknesses in Doolittle, but I never saw them in Kevin,” Buberl said.
Ring left Doolittle’s office in 1997 to work for then-Sen. John Ashcroft, then joined a House conservative group that Doolittle helped found before going to work for Abramoff’s Preston Gates in 2000.
That year, Ring e-mailed Abramoff about Doolittle’s interest in finding work for Mrs. Doolittle, according to documents released by Senate investigators last year. Aides said the Doolittles didn’t recall that, and no job came through at that time.
In September 2002, Abramoff retained Julie Doolittle’s Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc. for about $5,000 a month for administrative work and to plan a fundraiser that was canceled after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The arrangement lasted through February 2004.
Once at Preston Gates, Ring lobbied Doolittle on issues from water projects to labor laws.
According to billing records released by one Abramoff client, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ring billed the Marianas for at least 13 contacts with Doolittle and his staff from May through October of 2001. Doolittle took various actions to advance Abramoff’s agenda for the Marianas around that time, including circulating a letter to House colleagues touting improved working conditions there, according to a report in the islands’ Saipan Tribune.
Ring’s connections to Doolittle helped him pick up clients in or near Doolittle’s Sacramento-area district. Also, the Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority in Montana sought Ring out in 2000 to get access to Doolittle, who chaired a key House subcommittee, regarding federal authorization for a water project.
Ring cited his 5th amendment rights and wouldn’t answer questions when called to testify two years ago before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Among other things, the committee alleged that Ring collected $125,000 from an Abramoff associate for work he didn’t perform.
As he was helping Abramoff’s and Ring’s clients, Doolittle accepted a total of $14,000 in donations from Abramoff, plus tens of thousands more from the lobbyist’s clients. Ring and his wife gave Doolittle more than $3,000.
Already Abramoff prosecutors have collected a guilty plea from one former member of Congress, Republican Bob Ney of Ohio, after first getting a former aide to plead guilty. Prosecutors wrung pleas from two other figures in the Abramoff case in part with promises not to prosecute their wives.
Doolittle and his wife, who were told by the Justice Department to hire different attorneys, plan to set up separate legal defense funds, the congressman said Thursday. “I guess they believe there’s a potential conflict of interest between my wife and me,” he said.
But Doolittle said he’s not worried about what Ring ” or Abramoff ” might be telling prosecutors. “I know that if those men are telling the truth we have nothing to worry about,” he said.
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