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Monday, January 23, 2006

Doolittle's First Interview on Abramoff Since Abramoff's Indictment

Monday afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. PST.

I'm listening to an interview with California Representative John Doolittle on the Tom Sullivan Show as I write this. I'd call it talk radio, but the interview was recorded last week, enabling Doolittle avoid any questions from callers. Not exactly the rough and tumble of talk radio, politics, or democracy for that matter.

Doolittle has refused to answer questions about his relationship with Jack Abramoff up to this point. Doolittle's spokesperson has repeatedly said Doolittle only accepted $4,000 from Abramoff, although California campaign filings show that Doolittle received the largest single personal contribution of any politician from Abramoff -- $10,000 in 2000.

Doolittle has refused to disgorge any money his committees have received from Jack Abramoff, Abramoff's clients and associates, or alleged Duke Cunningham co-conspirators Brent Wilkes and Mitch Wade.

Some of what Doolittle had to say:
-In explaining his silence to date, JD says he has to think about legal ramifications of discussing the Abramoff issue.
If he hasn't done anything, where's the legal risk in speaking the truth to his constituents? Why does he continue to avoid them?

-JD says he's only taken $4,000 from Jack Abramoff and JA's wife.
This is at best a misstatement; at worst an outright lie.

-About Tom DeLay: "He and the former Majority Leader are "very close friends."
No surprise here. Doolittle is one of DeLay's closest allies.

-Campaign Finance Reform: Doesn't want public financing of campaigns. Says Geroge Washington raised campaign cash for House of Burgesses, and that U.S. system of campaign fundraising is best in the world.
Doolittle showed no recognition that 80% of the American public believe that corruption is a serious problem in Washington D.C., nor that a similar percentage think that there's too much money in politics. This is excatly what happens when campaign cash is allowed to dominate elections: representative democracy becomes radically less representative. Doolittle is off the reservation on this one.

-Did he cross the line?: JD says both the person offering a bribe and taking the bribe must intend for the bribee to provide some official act in return for whatever the briber offers.
This is legally right, although it sidesteps the question of whether Jack Abramoff or Brent Wilkes thought they were bribing Doolittle.

-Why not return the Abramoff money?: JD says it's a "matter of principle. (He's) not going to be like the other politicos, fleeing like a scared flock of birds."
Doolittle says, in effect, he is not going to cater to the typical politician's impulse to tend more to appearances than the underlying truth. In the same breath, Doolittle says he doesn't want to give the money back because to do so would create the appearance that he did something wrong.

-Skybox: JA had a sportsbox at the MCI Center, and would make it available to Doolittle and other members for fundraisers. JD didn't use often, but occasionally did. JD has obligation to report in-kind contribution of skybox. Common practice in D.C. for providing entity to provide statement to candidate, although the obligation to report it is candidate's (Doolittle's in this case). Abramoff never sent statement. JD failed to report around a $1,500 value.

-Signatures: "One of the premier restaurants in D.C. area." JD has records showing he paid for meals at Signatures. Always lived within rules. Either reimbursed or paid personally. Never knew he was on JA's list. JD also says $20 for lunch is laughable in D.C. -- "maybe you can eat at Baja Fresh".
Another example of what happens to representative democracy when rich people run the show.

-Who's investigating, have they contacted JD?: DoJ is investigating. "No one (in the last two years) has ever contacted me about it." No campaign records requested. Just sent a letter to US Attorney General today, "if you're concerned about me, investigate me." JD says the public is entitled to know the truth.
Yet refuses to answer questions about Abramoff for weeks? And when he does answer those questions, he does so in a cushy insulated radio interview with a sympathetic host. the letter to the A.G. is a ploy -- the A.G. can't comment on an ongoign investigation. For a guy who doesn't cater to appearances, Doolittle continues to cater to appearances.

-His wife Julie: JuD started Sierra Dominion almost 8 years ago. Various clients - bookkeeping, event planning, some fundraising. At some point, JuD outsourced the bookkepping, freeing up more time to fundraise. She made a list: who do I know to network? JA first on her list; had a gig for her. [Shocking.] Pay conmensurate with that of other clients. Lots of meetings, etc. Fundraiser for JA charity was going to be an elaborate spygame at new spy museum. JD "very offended" his wife has been brought into this. [Who wouldn't be concerned and even resentful that their spouse was brought into this, but whose connections has JuD exploited for her personal gain? Whose campaign contributors has Julie Doolittle made $145,000 from?] Business continued apace in post-Abramoff era. FBI asked for JuD's records, two years ago this May or June.

-Did JD call JA and ask what's going on?: JD never called JA. JuD never called JA. Scandal had progressed too far for JD to call.
Doolittle insists that he is a man who doesn't care about appearances, yet refuses to call his friend Jack when he is in trouble? How about just for an explanation? This was way before Abramoff was even indicted: did Doolittle know something about Abramoff that gave him reason to think that Abramoff was up to something illegal or nefarious?

-Campaign finance law: JD "probably has a different position on this" than colleagues in leadership. Ethics reforms have almost no bearing on Abramoff matter. Talks a bit about shoddy system of distinguishing between right and wrong.
Doolittle has long been out of step with the American public on the need to reduce the influence of big money on politics. He introduced multiple amendments to gut the presidential system of public financing and to completely eradicate all checks on big money flowing into the campaign coffers of the politicians and political parties. Doolittle is right on target when he talks about the ethical discrepancy of a $25 lunch being "wrong" and a $2,000 contribution being acceptable.

-Is this a Beltway issue?: JD thinks it's been made more important because of Duke Cunningham. JD thinks there is a legitimate concern on the part of voters. JD is trying to get the truth out.
Considering Doolittle's silence on this issue, this is laughable.

-Lungren's leadership elections idea?: Designed Democrat attack on Republicans. Exact wrong thing for GOP to do.
Of course the Democrats' hogwash is part of a designed attack on Republicans. And of course the Democrats in Congress don't have clean hands. That doesn't make Jack Abramoff''s money any cleaner. That doesn't make the money from Duke Cunningham's bribers any cleaner.

What wasn't asked (or answered):
-What about the $55,000 Doolittle received from Brent Wilkes and his associates?
-Why did Abramoff give Doolittle the largest single personal contribution from Abramoff to any politician ($10,000)?
-Why has Doolittle's spokesperson (and now Doolittle himself) not told the truth about the $10,000.

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Keep up the great work covering Doolittle.
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