Sunday, March 19, 2006

Connecting the Doolittle Dots

Northern California's powerful Republican congressman, John Doolittle (CA-4), won't find anything positive to say about an article out today in the San Diego Union Tribune. In a front page story, reporter Dean Calbreath, connects the dots between Doolittle and Cunningham co-conspirator, Brent Wilkes.

Many of those connections go directly through Doolittle's wife, Julie, who ran a one-person fundraising business out of the couple's Virginia home. Her primary client, John Doolittle.

Acting as her husband's campaign consultant, Julie Doolittle charged his campaign and his Superior California Political Action Committee a 15 percent commission on any contribution she helped bring in.

As a member of two key committees in the House – Appropriations and Administration – Doolittle is well-positioned to help contractors gain funding through congressional earmarks. Between 2002 and 2005, Wilkes and his associates and lobbyists gave Doolittle's campaign and political action committee $118,000, more than they gave any other politician, including Cunningham.

Julie Doolittle's business,
Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, operates out of the couple's home in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb. Although she claims to have other clients, the only identified patrons of her services represent a who's who of disgraced lobbyist elite.

...Greenberg Traurig, the lobbying firm that employed Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax-evasion charges. The second was Abramoff's Washington restaurant, Signatures. The third was the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, founded by Ed Buckham, one-time chief of staff for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The Korean group, which lobbied for improved U.S.-Korean relations, was based at the headquarters of Buckham's Alexander Strategy Group, which dissolved in January because of negative publicity over its ties to Abramoff. Wilkes also was an Alexander Strategy client.

Julie Doolittle's home business earned her over $180,000 in commissions from campaign contributions to John Doolittle's Superior California Political Action Committee. Money that, based on community property laws, also belongs to her husband, Representative John Doolittle. The Doolittle's jumped on this particular gravy train virtually the day John Doolittle became a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Julie Doolittle launched Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions in March 2001, two months after her husband was named to the Appropriations Committee.

The business, which is based at the couple's home in Oakton, Va., has no phone listing or Web site. The firm has no known employees other than Julie Doolittle. The congressman's office would not specify what previous fundraising experience she had.

Within months of its opening, the firm was receiving commissions from her husband's campaign. Within the next two years, it was planning fundraising events for Abramoff and handling bookkeeping for the Korean lobbying group in Buckham's office suite, where DeLay's wife, Christine, also was working.

Brent Wilkes connection with the Doolittle's lines up closely with Doolittle ascension to power.

Julie Doolittle was working at Buckham's offices in 2002 when Buckham introduced Brent Wilkes to her husband. Federal contracts for his flagship company, ADCS Inc., were drying up, partly because the Pentagon had been telling Congress it had little need for the company's document-scanning technology. So Wilkes was trying to get funding for two new businesses.


In October 2002, as Doolittle pushed for funding for PerfectWave, Wilkes and his associates donated $7,000 to his campaign and $10,000 to his political action committee. Julie Doolittle made $1,500 from Wilkes' contributions.


In November 2003, Wilkes held a fundraising dinner for Doolittle at ADCS' headquarters in Poway that was catered by Wilkes' wife, Regina, who ran a catering company based in the corporate cafeteria. The 15 guests on Wilkes' invitation were all ADCS employees or partners on projects Wilkes was trying to get funded, together with their spouses.

Over the next four months, members of the group gave a total of $50,000 to Doolittle's political action committee.

Guess who got a 15% commission on every penny of that $50,000? Yes, Julie Doolittle's company, run out of the congressman's home in Virginia. A $7,500 payday for going to a political dinner that was organized and financed by a contractor trying to influence Representative Doolittle to earmark funds for his companies. According to numerous sources, this November dinner was organized and catered by Brent Wilkes wife, Regina.

In May 2004, vehement anti-gambling crusader, John Doolittle held a major fundraiser for his political action committee at a Las Vegas casino-resort. Brent Wilkes was there and, as always, Julie Doolittle's home business was raking in a piece of the action for the family bank account.

John Doolittle's last known meeting with Wilkes came in May 2004, when Wilkes flew to Las Vegas to attend a fundraiser for the congressman's political action committee. Wilkes used his corporate jet to bring the keynote speaker, Tom DeLay, and one of DeLay's staffers.

Federal election records show that Julie Doolittle took a 15 percent commission for contributions made during the event at The Venetian hotel-casino, including an estimated $1,650 from the $11,000 donated by Wilkes, ADCS and Karl Gallant, a Buckham employee who was then lobbying on Wilkes' behalf.

To say that Doolittle is running a perfect scam would be an understatement. It's not the big league bribery and extortion that put Wilkes' other partner, Randy "Duke" Cunningham in jail, but it is a scam that nets Doolittle a nice income directly from his political action committee, with no strings attached and no reporting requirements.

Considering Doolittle's position of power on a key congressional committee, how much effort is required to keep funds flowing?

“After several years on the Appropriations Committee, John Doolittle has reached the point in his career where fundraising should be on autopilot,” said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign fundraising. “He shouldn't have to rely on his wife or anyone else to keep his coffers full.”

Perhaps it is true that John Doolittle doesn't have to rely on his wife to keep money flowing into his political action committee, but it is nice to have her depositing PAC money directly into the family bank account.