Former Doolittle aide cooperates with feds |

Former Doolittle aide cooperates with feds

WASHINGTON ” Truckee-Tahoe area Congressman Rep. John Doolittle’s former chief of staff is providing documents to federal prosecutors investigating Doolittle and his wife in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, the aide’s attorney told The Associated Press on Monday.

The aide, David Lopez, who was the Rocklin Republican’s longtime chief of staff until 2005 and continued to work for him as a campaign consultant for about a year after that, has turned over several hundred pages of campaign finance records to the Justice Department under subpoena, said his attorney, Bill Portanova.

A different former Doolittle staffer, Kevin Ring, who went on to work as a lobbyist with Abramoff, was already known to be under investigation in the wide-ranging probe. Portanova’s comments marked the first public confirmation that prosecutors have sought to interview other former Doolittle aides.

“Our client has been contacted like many other former staffers,” said Portanova. “We have provided documents pursuant to government request in the form of a subpoena which we gladly complied with.”

Lopez was first contacted by the Justice Department last August or September and conversations between prosecutors and his attorney are ongoing, though Lopez himself is not in direct talks with the Justice Department, Portanova said.

Lopez has not responded to interview requests from The AP in recent months. He now works as director of stewardship and parish administrator at Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills in Doolittle’s Northern California district.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined comment and Doolittle’s attorney did not immediately respond to messages.

Doolittle, a nine-term conservative, relinquished his post on the powerful House Appropriations Committee in April after the FBI raided his home.

Abramoff is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy and other charges and admitting defrauding clients, including Indian tribes. The investigation has netted 12 convictions, including a guilty plea from former GOP congressman Bob Ney of Ohio.

Doolittle has numerous ties to Abramoff, whom he considered a good friend. Doolittle interceded on behalf of Abramoff’s tribal clients and accepted campaign cash from the lobbyist and his clients.

Lopez’s name has previously surfaced in connection with Abramoff. He took a trip to Puerto Rico in 2001 paid for by Abramoff’s firm, although House rules prohibited trips paid for by registered lobbyists; Lopez said he’d consulted with the Ethics Committee and intended to abide by the rules.

Lopez was also referenced in an e-mail Ring wrote to Abramoff in 2000 about finding work for Doolittle’s wife, Julie, who went on to work for Abramoff on retainer. Julie Doolittle’s fundraising and event-planning company, which she ran out of the couple’s Virginia home, was the focus of the FBI’s subpoena in April.

However, there’s no indication Lopez is a focus of the investigation and Portanova said Lopez is not aware of criminal activity by Doolittle.

“I don’t think that there’s any sense that anything of that nature has occurred from my client’s perspective,” said Portanova.

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