Doolittle’s run with Washington’s big dogs
Until recently, I wasn’t one to bash our Republican Congressman, John Doolittle. After all, the evidence linking him to the burgeoning scandal of Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, doesn’t scream “busted.” Frankly, there is no smoking gun. At least not yet. What we have is Doolittle’s unwavering allegiance to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, another Republican buddy of Abramoff’s, who has his own problems with the law to iron out.However, start reading the reports – from the Washington Post, New York Times and a half dozen other news outlets – on Abramoff, DeLay and Doolittle and, oh man, and it’s enough to make your head spin. And then, at least for me, it makes my head start to think: What the hell is going on? Did our John from Rocklin take a liking to running with the big dogs? Big dogs who are now being rounded up?Well, if Doolittle is anything, it is loyal. Following DeLay’s indictment on conspiracy charges, Doolittle, a staunch supporter of DeLay, purchased and distributed lapel pins in the shape of small golden hammers to folks on Capitol Hill, according to a Oct. 29 article in the Houston Chronicle. As majority leader, DeLay earned the nickname of “The Hammer” for the manner in which he got Republican lawmakers to vote his way.The same article noted that Doolittle’s campaign received thousands of dollars from DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee and that Doolittle contributed $10,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund.Then there are DeLay’s ties to Abramoff. DeLay effectively brushed off allegations of wrongdoing earlier this year concerning a trip abroad in 2000. According to the Washington Post, the trip, taken when DeLay was House Majority Whip, was paid for with a credit card owned by – yep, you guessed it – Jack Abramoff.DeLay wiggled out of trouble about the trip, which ran about $120,000 and included his wife and others, by saying that it was paid for by a nonprofit group, of which Abramoff was a board member, therefore making it all on the up and up as far as House ethics rules go.OK, it was a slick loophole move that would have been almost palatable had DeLay gone to an international forum on, say, wayward orphans or something. Where’d the Texan’s entourage go? London, where DeLay and his wife stayed in a $800-a-night room (among other expenses paid for either by Abramoff and/or his lobbying firm) and Scotland, where DeLay got in a few rounds of golf on the storied links of the St. Andrews golf course.St. Andrews? Gimme a break.Then we have Doolittle admitting to using Abramoff’s skybox at Washington’s MCI Center for a fundraiser. The problem, or “oversight,” as a Doolittle staffer described it to the Washington Post in yet another article, was that Doolittle’s federal election records didn’t show that he paid for the use of the boxes or reported their value as an in-kind contribution.Oops. Of course Doolittle’s camp rectified the “oversight” – after the fact.Then there was Abramoff’s Washington restaurant, Signatures, where DeLay, Doolittle and other Republican lawmakers held lavish fundraisers. And there is John’s wife, Julie Doolittle, whose PR firm picked up a little consulting work from Abramoff’s company. And then there was, according to the Sacramento Bee, the $140,000 Abramoff and his associates pumped into Doolittle’s election coffers over the past five years.Head swimming yet? Granted, DeLay hasn’t been found guilty and Abramoff hasn’t been indicted on criminal charges – yet. Nor has Doolittle been formally accused of doing anything illegal. “Any suggestion that Representative Doolittle may have had some improper involvement in matters recently disclosed about Mr. Abramoff is based on irresponsible speculation by the media and is completely without merit,” Laura Blackann, Doolittle’s spokeswoman, told the Bee.She went on to praise Doolittle for his “high standard of ethics.”But there’s an old saying that doesn’t care much for legal technicalities: “You’re known by the company you keep.” Of course it’s hardly criminal to have unsavory buddies, but for one who professes to stand on the highest moral ground, Doolittle could be in for a tumble.Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. Reach him at email@example.com.
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