Thursday, February 2, 2006

Doolittle: Something of an Odd Duck

Scripps Howard News Service (Dan Walters, Sac Bee):

As politicians go, John Doolittle is something of an odd duck _ a congressman who shuns media attention and consciously alienates large blocs of his constituents, even his fellow Republicans.


Somewhere along the line, Doolittle became involved with Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist whose chief clients were Indian tribes that run casinos _ but exactly how involved is still unclear. Although Doolittle, an anti-gambling Mormon, had attempted to block construction of a huge Indian casino in Placer County, he eventually brokered an arrangement for the tribe to placate local governments. Doolittle was a member of the House committee overseeing Indian affairs until 2002.

What's evident is that he wrote letters in 2003 to federal officials that sided with Abramoff's clients on disputes _ a fact that was uncovered by the Associated Press. The letters appear to undercut Doolittle's rote assertions that he's opposed to gambling and has had no improper dealings with Abramoff, whose ties to politicians are being investigated by federal prosecutors after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud. Before the AP revealed the letters, Doolittle (who has ducked direct questioning by reporters) insisted on a radio talk show that he welcomes any investigation.

"Come investigate me, come contact me, because I know what the truth is, and I'll come out with a clean record," Doolittle said on radio.

Were it just two letters, one could agree that there's smoke but no fire. But one of Abramoff's tribes helped by a Doolittle letter, based in Mississippi, later made a $5,000 campaign contribution to the congressman - part of the $130,000 Doolittle has received from gambling tribes with ties to Abramoff. Furthermore, Abramoff hired Doolittle's wife as a consultant, and placed a former Doolittle aide on his payroll. Those and other facts add up to a pretty cozy relationship between Doolittle and Abramoff - more than mere coincidence.

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