Saturday, February 11, 2006

Doolittle and Abramoff

Not long ago, Representative John Doolittle (CA-4) demanded that he be investigated for his connections to Jack Abramoff. Doolittle apparently wanted the Department of Justice to start to lock down the continually drip, drip, drip of media and blog aligations of links between Doolittle and, convicted felon, Abramoff.

I'm pretty certain that Doolittle's name has come up in the federal investigatory plans regarding Abramoff's cooperative testimony. And, Doolittle's approach of demanding an investigation, when one was probably already in place is much like his refusal to return any Abramoff tainted campaign money. Doolittle has developed a strategy that allows him to be the victim of the "vast leftwing media conspiracy."

Clearly, Doolittle can't return Abramoff's money as that would highlight all the work Doolittle did at Abramoff's bidding. Clearly, Doolittle can't attempt to refute all of his links to Abramoff in the "liberal press," because doing so will highlight the fact the Doolittle's wife worked for Abramoff. Talking about those links will highlight the fact that Doolittle's former chief of staff, Kevin Ring, moved from Doolittle's office to Abramoff's.

Doolittle's strategy is to keep his constituents in the dark as much as possible. Vilify the messengers and pretend to be the honest public servant under siege by the evil "left wing media."

The problem with this strategy is that his constituents actually have access to the news media and the Internet. And, every day brings new evidence of the depths of the Doolittle-Abramoff connection.

In the last 48 hours two new links between Doolittle and Abramoff have been exposed. Over at TPM, Doolittle's constituents can read about a 1999 trip their congressman made to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on Jack Abramoff's dime.

"The former Marshall Islands government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told that after Abramoff was hired, he told RMI officials: "You need Congress to come out to the Marshall Islands. Let me see what I can do about that."

And Abramoff delivered. At least three Members of Congress and three non-voting delegates accompanied Young on the February 1999 trip.

According to Congressional travel records filed by the House Committee on Resources, these included John Doolittle (R-CA) and Ken Calvert (R-CA), as well as Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Bob Underwood (D-Guam), and Donna Christenson (D-Virgin Islands). Eight congressional staffers came along too. (The records do not show the cost of the taxpayer-funded trip.) Though not mentioned in congressional travel records, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was also part of the delegation, according to the former RMI official. (Rohrabacher's attendence was later confirmed by his spokesperson Rebecca Rudman.)"

Yesterday also brought this revelation regarding a visit to Puerto Rico in 2001 by Doolittle's chief of staff. This trip was paid for by Abramoff at the behest of another of his clients. The Sacramento Bee has the story.

"Rep. John Doolittle's former chief of staff took a trip to Puerto Rico paid for by the firm where disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked.

Members of Congress and aides aren't allowed to accept gifts of travel from registered lobbyists, according to House gift and travel rules.

David Lopez reported that he took a "fact-finding" trip to Puerto Rico in July 2001 paid for by the firm Greenberg Traurig.


Lopez is no longer on Doolittle's congressional staff, but he is still paid for fundraising consulting by the lawmaker's campaign committee. In the last quarter of 2005, Lopez got payments of $9,711 on Oct. 17, $4,600 on Nov. 2, and $3,077 on Nov. 10, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission."

The point here isn't that a member of congress or his chief of staff went on a trip. That happens all the time. The point is that at every turn in the road, there are links between John Doolittle's office and Jack Abramoff's office. Where Jack Abramoff's interests intersect with public policy, John Doolittle's personal actions and the actions of his staff are directly linked to Abramoff's interests. That is not coincidence.

Doolittle can play the role of besieged innocent, but it is just an act and even in the hinterlands of CA-4 his constituents are going to begin to see through the act and come to understand that John Doolittle was in Jack Abramoff's pocket.

Side Note: Doolittle's former chiefs of staff certainly do find ways to milk their association with Doolittle into a nice income stream. Former COS, Ring is now a registered lobbyist for two cities in Doolittle's district to the tune of over $150K per year. If, Lopez's 4th quarter 2005 results are indicative of his annual take from fundraising for Doolittle his has a nice five figure supplemental income.