Doolittle Denies Wrongdoing After FBI Search

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by
San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle Denies Wrongdoing After FBI Search

Placer County GOP congressman linked to lobbyist Abramoff

by
John Wildermuth

An FBI search of Rep. John Doolittle's Virginia home has turned up the heat on the embattled congressman, who barely won re-election last November after being linked to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.An attorney for Doolittle, a Republican from Roseville (Placer County), said Wednesday that the FBI search last Friday focused on records of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company run by Doolittle's wife, Julie. Julie Doolittle worked closely with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last year to charges that included conspiracy to bribe public officials.

0419 06Doolittle, 56, denied wrongdoing in a statement released Wednesday after news of the search became public.

"My wife has been cooperating with the FBI and the Justice Department for almost three years and that cooperation is going to continue in the future,'' he said. "I support my wife 100 percent and fully expect that the truth will prevail.''

Other Republicans weren't nearly so confident.

"It's difficult to overstate the seriousness of the FBI executing search warrants at an elected official's home,'' said Kevin Spillane, a Sacramento-based Republican consultant. "It's a catastrophic political event for any member of Congress.''

When the FBI raid is added to reports that Abramoff is cooperating with federal investigators in hopes of having his sentence reduced, the picture for Doolittle is bleak, he added.

"It would be surprising to see him in Congress in January 2009,'' Spillane said.

Republican officials weren't rushing to Doolittle's defense.

"At this time we're still in the process of sorting out the facts,'' said Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the state GOP.

Doolittle, who was first elected to Congress in 1990, represents the Sacramento suburbs and a big chunk of the Mother Lode country in the Sierra foothills. Republicans have a 48 percent to 30 percent advantage in voter registration.

Still, Doolittle won just a 49 percent to 46 percent victory last November over Democrat Charlie Brown, a retired Air Force officer from Roseville who is planning a 2008 rematch.

Doolittle had links to Abramoff that go beyond his wife's job. He held a fundraiser in Abramoff's skybox at a Wizards-Kings pro basketball game in Washington, D.C., and accepted more than $60,000 dollars in campaign contributions from Abramoff and the Indian tribes he represented.

Doolittle also accepted campaign contributions from defense contractor Brent Wilkes and worked to get Wilkes' company millions of dollars in government contracts. Wilkes was indicted in February for providing former San Diego Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with more than $700,000 in bribes in exchange for help getting federal contracts. Cunningham was sentenced to prison for corruption.

Kevin Ring, a former aide to Doolittle who later worked for Abramoff, abruptly resigned from his job at a Washington lobbying firm Friday, the same day Doolittle's home was searched by the FBI.

Chronicle wire services contributed to this report. E-mail John Wildermuth at jwildermuth@sfchronicle.com.

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.

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