Thursday, January 05, 2006

Doolittle Delight

Yes, I said I was going on a road trip, but I have a couple of minutes and wanted to add some links to the Representative John Doolittle (CA-4) saga.

The Union, a newspaper in Doolittle's district has a person on the street piece with local reaction to the Doolittle-Abramoff links. It is essentially what you would expect. Local Republicans say Doolittle is honest as the day is long. Trustworthy, kind, caring, etc. In fact, every quote in the article is word for word what Republican Party leaders and local residents were saying about former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, until the day he admitted his guilt in front of a judge. People want to trust the people they elected. But, should Doolittle be trusted?

The Union has an interesting thread of stories, opinion pieces and letters regarding Doolittle's failure to secure highway funds for a project considered critical in the community of Nevada City. When pressed as to why other projects in the district recieved funding, while this important project was left out, a Doolittle aide suggested that Nevada City hire a lobbyist to help them push for more federal funds. The Union's publisher, Jeff Ackerman, didn't think much of that idea.

"The county begged (for some funds)" said Nevada City Mayor Conley Weaver, who sits on the Nevada County Transportation Committee. "We said we'd do anything for Dorsey Drive."

The Dorsey Drive interchange project, designed to relieve a chunk of traffic, has been on the back burner since the first wagon train was stalled in that area during a blizzard and 16 miners froze to death.

Doolittle's aide said it doesn't hurt to hire a lobbyist to get these kinds of projects through. And here I thought politicians only listened to "The People." Silly goose that I am.

"The only opinion I have is, maybe the squeakiest wheel gets greased," said Weaver, talking about the need to be noticed. "Maybe our wheel wasn't squeaky enough."

Or, perhaps the wheel isn't the only thing that needs to get greased, which is where a good lobbyist comes in handy. Unfortunately, anymore grease and Washington slides into the Potomac.

Doolittle has raised and spent more than $5.5 million since he was elected to Congress, according to records. He has raised more than $324,000 in the last year, most of it coming from undisclosed individuals.

One of the reasons Doolittle might not really care about our Dorsey Drive problem is because he doesn't get a whole lot of money from this neck of the woods. According to one zip code ranking, the congressman has gotten almost three times more money ($80,000) from Fair Oaks than from Grass Valley ($30,000) sources in the past year. And Nevada City didn't even show up on the chart (if you can believe that), so it's no wonder Doolittle could care less what Mayor Weaver wants for Christmas.The squeaky wheel may only get greased if there are a few zeroes attached to it."

Maybe the lobbyist that Doolittle's aide had in mind was Kevin Ring. Ring is Doolittle's former chief of staff, who left the congressman to work for...........wait for it - Jack Abramoff.

According to this article from a Montana newspaper, Ring certainly has Doolittle's ear.

'Since 2000, Ring and his firm have received $570,000 in state money to lobby for the Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority, a $241-million federal drinking water project that will bring fresh water to 30,000 mostly rural residents across north-central Montana.

Doolittle chaired the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, which along with a similar Senate committee had the sole power to authorize any new water projects in the country. Without congressional authorization, the water project couldn't go anywhere.

At the time, said John Tubbs, chief of Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Resource Development Bureau, Doolittle was holding up all water project authorizations.”

(Ring's) first project was Dry Prairie,“ said Tubbs, who also oversees money for the state's regional water program.Clint Jacobs, manager of the Dry Prairie authority, said Ring's history with Doolittle was his main selling point.”

Kevin Ring was the only former staffer for Rep. Doolittle who was a lobbyist, so that was the reason we selected him,“ Jacobs said.

Three months after the group hired Ring, Doolittle's committee began working on authorizing the project, a stamp of government approval the water authority itself had unsuccessfully sought for four years."

Another amazing coincidence. Hire my friend, you'll get your money. Then my friend will help raise money for me. Pay-for-play.

Double hat tip to A Liberal Conservative and Dump Doolittle.