As diaried this Monday a few times Abramoff-associated lobbyist Kevin Ring "abruptly" resigned his job last Friday. And hilltopper chimed in that 2006 challenger Charlie Brown is in good position for the rematch, fundraising-wise. Because not only does Brown have a Cash-on-Hand advantage over Doolittle, his money burn rate is better, too. Between Julie Doolittle's 1/6 commission on every dollar of donations, and over $100,000 to his white collar criminal defense attorney, Doolittle's campaign is in the red!
The Sacramento Bee has a new story by Washington reporter David Whitney, exploring Doolittle's problems in more depth.
UPDATE from The Hill on the FBI raid. Wow!!
UPDATE, relevant text:
The FBI has raided the Northern Virginia home of Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), according to Congressional sources. No details are publicly available yet about the circumstances of the raid, but Doolittle and his wife, Julie, have been under federal investigation for their ties to the scandal surrounding imprisoned former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Note, please, that this is from The Hill.
The other two guys in this picture (Tom Delay & Henry Bonilla, both former Congressmen, Republicans from Texas) are already out of office. Here's to Doolittle following soon:
From that SacBee article today:
Doolittle has been linked closely to the Abramoff scandal. He has spent more than $100,000 in campaign funds to pay for the services of lawyers specializing in white-collar crime to, as he has said, "clear my name."
Review: Kevin Ring was on Doolittle's staff from 1993-1998, with the title of Legislative Director when he resigned. Later, he joined Team Abramoff from 2000-2004. And pleading the Fifth when called to Testify before John McCain's Indian Affairs Committee a couple years ago. Ring lobbied for the Marianas Islands under Abramoff. Not only did they score some significant earmarks from Doolittle's seat on a Transportation subcommittee, but the Congressman's wife, Julie, got a lucrative consulting contract with the Abramoff firm at the same time.
From local Fox station in Indianapolis (main office of the law firm Ring resigned from is there):
In 2005, Ring exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was brought before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigating the Abramoff scandal.
The Indianapolis Business Journal, also today, reports that Ring's attorney still is not available for comment. Their focus seems to be on distancing themselves from the "bad guys":
"There has never been a suggestion that any of the lobbying activities under investigation occurred at Barnes & Thornburg," Levin said. "All of these issues occurred before they came to the law firm, and we see this as having no effect on our ability to continue to deliver the same services we have been. We have a strong practice, and we’ll continue to have that strong presence, both locally and in Washington."
Though that didn't stop them from hiring Ring in the first place. And Ring's not the only Abramoff alumnus hired by Barnes & Thornberg.
Ring was one of three former Abramoff associates—Ring, Volz, and current of counsel Edward Ayoob—employed by the Indianapolis firm, which has 300 lawyers in Washington and various Midwest locations. Ayoob has not been implicated and remains an important part of the firm, Levin said.
Volz is Neil Volz, former staffer for Congressman Bob Ney, both of whom ended up pleading guilty on Abramoff-related criminal charges last year. Thornberg et al. perhaps want to distinguish themselves as less corrupt than the crew currently in power. (Not especially hard to do!) It's entirely possible that they gave Ring a bit of a push. The firm's spokesman told SacBee they were "surprised" by the resignation, which could very well be true.
I've digressed a bit, so let's now get back to the SacBee today, first on the CNMI question:
Ring also was Abramoff's client manager for the firm's lobbying account with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The firm was hired to lobby against congressional efforts to overhaul the territory's labor and immigration policies, which critics charged were turning Saipan into a sweatshop for Asian-owned garment factories.
Doolittle was a major congressional supporter of the commonwealth and had taken steps to help Abramoff secure the lucrative lobbying contract beginning in 1999. Ring met regularly with Doolittle and his staff to lobby for the commonwealth, including efforts to win congressional funding or to plan strategy to defeat the overhaul legislation. During this period, Abramoff personally contributed $14,000 to Doolittle and his political action committee, with the last check written as the lobbying contract ended on Dec. 31, 2001.
And what does Doolittle have to say about all this?
His chief of staff, citing advise from counsel (David Barger, located in Virginia), has declined to comment. Barger's not returning calls to reporters.
Others declining comment:
- Justice Department
- Former Ring lobbying clients
- Ring's criminal defense attorney, Richard Hibey
Hibey, from the AP:
"He is being responsive to whatever is going on," Hibey said. He would not comment on whether Ring is cooperating with the Abramoff investigation.
For a professional talker, that's a pretty lame statement. It's probably fair to assume things aren't looking so good for Hibey's client just now. It's also fair to assume that Ring's old boss Jack Abramoff is talking. But that's behind closed doors, in his efforts to "cooperate" and thereby reduce his time behind bars.
I'm assuming Doolittle's probably scaled back on his pledge to reconnect with voters in the district. Too hard to dodge too many difficult questions these days. "My criminal lawyer advises me not to comment on the matter" isn't the kind of sound bite likely to curry favor with the constituents. The Doolittles with one of their prominent supporters:
I wouldn't be surprised by another Friday news dump on this one. Except with the wall-to-wall coverage from Blacksburg, this whole week is a prime opportunity for slipping news under the radar. Just like Doolittle (& Pombo) pulled off key components of the Hurwitz caper while the rest of the country was fixated on the Florida recount back in December 2000.
2008 ELECTION PROSPECTS
Doolittle's re-election prospects are less than rosy at present. (SacBee again)...
Doolittle's connection to Abramoff was a major element in Doolittle's heated campaign with Democratic challenger Charlie Brown last fall. Doolittle won narrowly, 49 percent to 46 percent, in a Republican-dominated district in which he had previously commanded 60 percent or 65 percent of the vote. Since that election, Doolittle has dropped out of the House Republican leadership and pledged to spend more time in the district "reconnecting" with voters.
Here's Charlie with one of his many notable supporters, this one Paul Hackett: