Records dispute extends Doolittle investigation
AUBURN ” A three-month-old legal wrangle with the Department of Justice over subpoenas seeking extensive records from U.S. Rep. John Doolittle’s last 11 years in office is clouding any outcome from its three-year-long investigation of the District Four congressman.
Doolittle, who has denied doing anything wrong, said constitutional issues in the subpoenas could take “one or two years” to be resolved ” delaying further any resolution revolving around the investigation.
“It’s a major constitutional confrontation,” Doolittle said.
But a Republican congressional challenger is calling on Doolittle to do what he considers the right thing, hand over the requested records, and take a step toward “clearing the ethical cloud that hangs over our party.”
“Personally, I’ve seen enough already,” Eric Egland said. “When it comes to honoring the public trust, ethics and honesty require going beyond the letter of the law.”
Doolittle, R-Roseville, and five members of his staff were subpoenaed by the Justice Department in late September. Doolittle has been linked to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff but has contended that he has done nothing wrong.
During an April search of his Virginia home, FBI investigators removed records and a computer related to the bookkeeping business of Doolittle’s wife Julie. She had worked for Abramoff and also worked for Doolittle as a fundraiser, receiving a 15 percent commission.
Doolittle described the September subpoena as a “fishing expedition.” He contends that after three years and no evidence released to suggest he had committed a crime, the department should end the probe and clear his name.
“They’re desperately scratching for any fig leaf to justify the millions of dollars in taxpayer money that they’ve wasted,” Doolittle said.
After the September subpoenas were issued, Doolittle attorney David Barger said the move raised serious constitutional issues on the separation of powers and that his client would work to protect Congress’ rights. Barger said in September that investigators were asking for “virtually every record, including legislative records, for the congressman for the past 11 years.”
Egland, a Roseville Republican running for the party’s District Four nomination, criticized Doolittle’s legal stance.
“Separation of powers is essential to our government,” Egland said. “So is honest service from our public officials.”
Egland said that while attorneys may be able to delay federal investigators from using some congressional records as evidence, “there is still a way for John Doolittle to expedite this case and bring it closer to a speedy conclusion.
“Doolittle should give his consent to let the investigators do their job,” Egland said. “He may have the right to hide behind congressional privilege, but if he has nothing to hide, he should waive his right and bring closure to the investigation.”
Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for Democratic Party candidate Charlie Brown, said that the legal issue will be sorted out eventually.
“The simplest reaction from our perspective is that the judicial process will run its course,” Stenhouse said. “The bottom line is what’s best for this district. The simple fact is there are a lot of issues in Congress.”
Brown remains focused on the security needs of the country, reining in the spending and producing results the people in the district desire on issues like energy dependence, veteran after-care and responsible use of taxpayer dollars, he said.
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