Thursday, February 2, 2006

Doolittle's Fundraising Contains 'Echoes of Abramoff'

David Whitney, Washington Bureau reporter for the Sac Bee, continues his outstanding reporting on John Doolittle's lobbying scandal and his campaign for re-election in 06:

The Jack Abramoff scandal has not impeded Rep. John Doolittle's ability to raise contributions for his 2006 re-election campaign, new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

The report shows that the Roseville Republican pulled in $183,500 in the last three months of 2005, which a campaign aide said is a record for the period.

Doolittle's campaign receipts were boosted by a Nov. 4 fundraising luncheon hosted by Air Products, a Lehigh Valley, Pa., company whose hydrogen unit has been helped by a $5 million earmark Doolittle inserted into a 2005 spending bill.

Doolittle is a member of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water subcommittee that doles out federal money to energy-related programs.

His provision created the California Hydrogen Infrastructure Project to speed development of hydrogen-powered cars that would be non-polluting. The project is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and a consortium of companies led by Air Products. Doolittle touted the project and the federal money at a Roseville press conference in March.

At the November fundraiser, Air Products' political action committee contributed $10,000 to Doolittle's re-election, and seven of its top executives delivered another $4,000 in personal contributions.

Air Products officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.


Doolittle's campaign report covering October through December contained echoes of Abramoff despite the lobbyist's conviction last month on felony mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges.

Among Doolittle's contributors were two lobbyists at Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying shop formed by former DeLay aides with close associations with Abramoff. The firm closed last month under the weight of the scandal.

The two lobbyists, Edward Stewart and Michael Mihalke, each contributed $1,000 to Doolittle's re-election.

Most of Doolittle's contributions came from individual contributors, who accounted for two-thirds of the congressman's total receipts during the quarter. Many of them are Washington lobbyists, but a high volume of the cash came from the Sacramento area, where Doolittle has been trying to boost support.

His report shows, for example, that the campaign paid over $10,000 to a New Hampshire company, SCM Associates, to operate a phone bank.

Richard Robinson, Doolittle's chief of staff who moonlights as one of the congressman's top campaign consultants, termed that effort "prospecting."

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