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Today's Washington Post carried an editorial about the sweetheart deal whereby one of every six dollars donated to Congressman John Doolittle's campaign fund (CA-4) was paid to his wife, Julie, as a "commission".  Of course, this is not news to dKos users, or at least those of us who read dengre's diary on this very topic a month ago.  So the news is, mainly, that the Washington Post is belatedly catching up.

Below the fold, there's more on the Doolittles, some discussion of Pombo's family fortunes, and some news about $2.3 million funneled from Jack Abramoff to his brother, though no services were specified on the associated billings.

The San Diego Union-Tribune (3/19/06) has been on the Doolittle story, as collateral to the Duke Cunningham imbroglio.  So the Post is late indeed to get on board this story.

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.

Pretty sweet deal, all in all.  And, it appears, she took credit for more than just the occasional donation.  From the WaPo:

Mr. Doolittle's office defends the commission arrangement, saying that he wanted to ensure his wife "was not accused of receiving payments without generating results -- a charge that has been frequently leveled against members of Congress whose family members receive a salary instead of a commission." If so, Mr. Doolittle created one appearance problem in his effort to solve another. True, some campaign fundraisers operate on a commission basis, and 15 percent is a standard fee. But the practice of taking commissions is increasingly disfavored. The Association of Fundraising Professionals' code of ethics prohibits such arrangements.
...
We've been reluctant to criticize congressional spouses whose related careers -- as lobbyists or campaign consultants, for example -- predate their marriages. Mrs. Doolittle does not appear to present such a case. Mr. Doolittle points to a 2001 Federal Election Commission advisory opinion that permitted the wife of Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to be hired as a Jackson campaign consultant. In that case, though, Sandi Jackson had extensive political experience and a written contract with her husband's campaign. Asked if Mrs. Doolittle has a contract, a representative of her husband's office declined to answer specific questions. Similarly, Mr. Doolittle's office says he's been told by the House ethics committee that his arrangement is permissible, but his office did not provide any documentation.

Putting family members on the campaign payroll is questionable. Letting them -- and by extension, the candidate -- take a piece of the contribution action ought to be completely out of bounds.

Until now, Rep. Doolittle has made it a point of pride that he'd not retained an attorney, despite the fact that his name arises often in Abramoff-related scandal news.  That changed this week.  The Sacramento Bee reported on Tuesday that Doolittle's re-election campaign has retained one of the attorneys from Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation stable, one David Barger.  But, of course, it's not related to the scandals:

"The congressman has not retained an attorney to respond to any Justice Department inquiries, as there have been none," he said.

"Given the amount of media attention that has surrounded this issue, it is understandable that the congressman wants to be as prudent as possible when making public statements as to ensure their accuracy and not compromise the ongoing investigation."

But Naomi Seligman Steiner, deputy director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said she thinks the retention of Barger is an indication that Doolittle is worried that he's in trouble.

Yeah, right!  For just one little thing, Julie Doolittle's business records were subpoenaed in conjunction with the Justice Dept.'s Abramoff investigation.

Here's a map of Doolittle's district:

Meanwhile, Rep. Richard Pombo's family (his wife and his brother) have received fully a quarter of his campaign contributions in the form of salary.  This is not exactly news, but is worthy of mention in the context of this topic. Story from 12/6/04:

Federal records reveal that Rep. Richard Pombo funneled nearly $256,000 in campaign funds to his wife and brother during the past two years.

Pombo, a Republican who represents a district that includes portions of San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, reportedly paid about a quarter of his campaign funds to his wife, Annette Pombo, and his brother, Randall Pombo.

A related story, entitled DeLay has company in ethical gray areas appeared in USA Today the following April:

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., hired his wife and brother for his campaign and paid them a total of $229,000 over two years.

A year ago, Washington Post reported $357k in payments to Pombo family members, presumably counted over some different time period.

Is this legal?  That isn't the only question to be asked IMHO.  Because if it is legal, it shouldn't be.  One wonders how cognizant campaign contributors are that a large proportion of campaign funds end up directly in the bank accounts of candidates' families.  No wonder the public sees the government as irretrievably corrupt.

Lest we think this practice is universal, the LA Times puts it in perspective:

At least 39 members of Congress have engaged in the controversial practice of paying their spouses, children or other relatives out of campaign funds, or have hired companies in which a family member had a financial interest, records and interviews show.

Thirty-nine?  That's less than one in ten.  So there is grounds for singling out Pombo, Doolittle, and the minority of Representatives who choose to line their own pockets with political contributions.  Others prominent Republicans cited in the LA Times article as hiring family members for their campaigns include Dana Rohrbacher, and Tom DeLay.  

The Times also adds this caveat:

The Times developed a list of names of relatives and businesses owned by relatives on campaign payrolls from interviews, news accounts and personal financial disclosure reports. Campaign reports do not have to disclose whether recipients of funds are related to a candidate, so The Times' list is most likely incomplete.

The phenomenon, according to the Times, seems particularly prevalent in California, and includes plenty of candidates from both parties.  In the case of Pombo, in addition to keeping his brother working fulltime, and his wife receiving about $40k per year, he also hires another brother to cater campaign events.

In the 2003-2004 campaign cycle, Pombo paid more to his family members - $217,000 - than his opponent, Jerry McNerney, spent on his [entire] campaign.

Addendum on Abramoff family ties:
Last week the New York Times reported on an Abramoff sidebar.  It appears the disgraced lobbyist directed $2.3 million in fees to his brother in Los Angeles.

On December 3, 2003, Aeneas Enterprises opened for business in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, and judging by its bank records, the small consulting company with no listed telephone number was an instant success.

Within two months, Aeneas received $2.3 million in fees from a Maryland firm, GrassRoots Interactive, established by Jack Abramoff.  Jack's brother Robert is an attorney, and Aeneas took phone calls and conducted business from his law office.  There is no indication on Aenaes's billing statements as to what the California brother did to earn these fees.

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:28 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Your research is impeccable, as always (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AmericanRiverCanyon

      and your work is in the fine tradition of the muckraking journalists of a century ago - the ones who fueled the progressive politics and exposed the corrupt bastards of their time.  Cheers!

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 09:30:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Truth is... (3+ / 0-)

        ...I'll be glad when this yahoo gets sent back to the ranch.  I can think of any number of things I'd rather be doing.  This effort is >definitely<out of a sense of urgent necessity, rather than joy.</p>

        BTW, can we expect another installment from you this weekend?

        •  Fourth Crusade, comin' right up (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AmericanRiverCanyon

          I had envisioned doing a Biographies of the Crusades sort of thing to be released mid-week, but life got in the way and sucked up all my time.  Should have time this weekend to get the next installment done by tomorrow evening (though there is a Star Trek convention in town...)

          I, too, want to see Pombo turned out to pasture, but as long as he's still drawing government (and many other government-related) paychecks, it's nice to know that he's got someone like you riding his ass.  Can't wait til he's gone, when we'll get a chance to see what LoE writes for pleasure!

          "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

          by Unitary Moonbat on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 07:06:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Is your first sentence not complete? (2+ / 0-)

    But great diary. Thanks for all your efforts.

    "The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807.

    by PatsBard on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:44:40 PM PDT

  •  Get Pombo (2+ / 0-)

    Hopefully his defeat on election night in November will be the cap on a wonderful evening.

  •  Sacramento Bee has been running Doolittle stories (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment, kurt

    ....on this subject of the Doolittles skimming 15% of the cream off the campaign donation milk and putting the butter in their own fridge. There was one yesterday, Friday.  A quote from Doolittle's chief of staff, Richard Robinson, who ..."thinks Maehara (head of Association of Fundraising Professionals) simply doesn't understand that commission based fundraising is not unusual. Such an arrangement is common in the political community because candidates want to ensure that fundraisers are only compensated for their performance. "
    Paulette Maehara wrote a complaint about this to Doolittle's office, saying the association had worked hard to eliminate this practice because it places the incentive on personal gain.

    Oh, I think she "gets it" just fine.  So do Doolittle's constitiuents who are not professional fundraisers, aka the lowly "taxpayers."  Julie Doolittle is certainly doing an excellent performance to be compensated nearly $180,000 since 2001, according to the San Diego Union Tribune article linked above.

    "Fundraising" is not unusual. Who is doing it, and how they are paid, and how it is taxed, sometimes is.

    Thank you for the diary, and thank you especially for mentioning Pombo in the same one.
    Doolittle and Pombo are connected thru their mutually enhanced endeavors to get the long defunct, impossible, and frightening Auburn project started again.  Pombo keeps trying to kill off the endangered species act and attempts to insert riders in various House bills that would change the criteria by which scientists do studies to determine feasibility.  If he were successful, then Doolittle, who has been pushing this dodo bird,  would have one more obstacle out of his way. I just can't figure out how Pombo is going to have the geologic fault the dam would rest on disapear. That is going to take some serious conjuring.

    •  Click on my username... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fgentile, AmericanRiverCanyon

      ...and follow back to check out my earlier diaries on Pombo.  I've been posting about him since shortly after I first signed on last fall.  Environmental & Native American affairs are two of my main areas of experience.  So this naturally leads to House Resources, & Mr. Ostrich Cowboy Boots.

      Pombo & Doolittle both serve on that committee, and in fact worked in concert to carry Delay's water in the Hurwitz affair some years back.

      I fiddle around with photoshop, too.  Am thinking about a new "movie poster" based on a Laurel and Hardy short Another Fine Mess, with Pombo as Hardy & Doolittle as Laurel.  I've never tackled morphing faces before, am not sure how well it will work out yet.  One problem is that Pombo's face recognition is limited (he's almost never mentioned or interviewed on cable news, for example); Doolittle has even less.  And it still needs to be recognizable as Laurel & Hardy, too.

      And thanks to pico for the Pombo=Hardy suggestion.  It's brilliant!

      As to Auburn Dam & associated fault:  Perhaps this is another of the GOP faith-based initiatives.  The trouble with these things is that you can fight them off and win 100 times.  But if they succeed that 101st time, the 100 previous battles are lost, too.

      Noticing your user ID# of 85179, I assume you're new here.  So, welcome.  Look forward to more of your participation.

      •  I spend loads of... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Land of Enchantment, kurt

        time in CA-04.  My family has 20 acres of vacation property in the Gold Country of Nevada County, CA.

        I am a hiker, back country skier and snow shoer who recreates heavily in Doolittle's district. Even do a little rowing on Lake Tahoe.

        It really sucks that such a wonderful area of our country is represented by such wingnuts, including the odius Jim Gibbons.

        My own candidate in NV-02,  Jill Derby will hopefully share that l o n g border with Charlie Brown. come January 2007!

        RE: Pombo's district CA-11

        Do you like the gerrymandering job?
        Notice the missing sliver between Manteca and Tracy. (Probably too many Latino Democratic voters)  And the sliver from Pleasanton to Danville.  (Lots of GOOPer subdivisions; his "kind" of people.)

        I want Pombo and Doolittle to be imprisoned for their crimes, not just lose electorally.

        http://www.nvdems.com

        •  The sad thing is, it was drawn... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fgentile

          ...to help Gary Condit keep his seat.  Of all things.  Condit's replacement, Cardoza (Dem), cosponsored that pernicious "modernization" of the Endangered Species Act.

          •  Appreciate the info... (0+ / 0-)

            I forgot about Condit. Hopefully McCloskey, a decent guy, will bloody Pombo enough for a Democratic takedown

            BTW, did you read jedinecny's diary on Jill Derby candidate for NV-02?  It was posted early this morning and got knocked down the list.  Sven is a German national who spent his HS years as a Lake Tahoe exchange student.

            I'm ten miles as the crow flies from the CA border west of Reno.  (CA-04)
            Its a shame Gibbons and Doolittle represent such diverse, wonderful areas
            Being a Sierra Club member and an a participant in human-powered recreation it chaps my butt to have those assholes (including Pombo) in office.

            I'm doing my bit as a Washoe County Demo. volunteer.

            And thanks for your past recommends!

            http://www,nvdems.com

  •  Great work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanRiverCanyon

    And GrassRoots Interactive is tied to Maryland's Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

    Abramoff spread his corruption from sea to shining sea...

    •  Just cobbling together some of your... (0+ / 0-)

      ...leftover crumbs.  And adding a few bits I stumbled over on my own.  No big deal.  But thanks for the compliment.  We're both working related territories towards similar goals, so that's good.

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