Abramoff e-mail indicates more ties with Doolittle
WASHINGTON (AP) – Rep. John Doolittle wanted to talk to lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2000 about a position for his wife Julie Doolittle at a nonprofit now accused of doing favors for Abramoff in exchange for cash, according to an e-mail released Thursday.
The e-mail between Abramoff and his associate Kevin Ring, a former Doolittle staffer, was released as part of a report by the Democratic staff of the Senate Finance Committee about Abramoff’s dealings with non-profits.
It provides more evidence of the close relationship between Doolittle and Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud in January and is cooperating in a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation that has already rung a guilty plea from one congressman.
Doolittle, an eight-term Rocklin conservative who is facing a spirited re-election challenge from Democrat Charlie Brown, is a member of the House GOP leadership and among the lawmakers most closely tied to Abramoff.
The e-mail pushes back the date at which Abramoff played a role in employment options for Julie Doolittle, who from 2002-2004 was paid a near-monthly retainer by Abramoff for event planning work.
“David told me that Doolittle (JTD) is very excited and appreciative about the Toward Tradition position for Julie,” Ring wrote Abramoff in the Sept. 20, 2000, e-mail, apparently referring to Doolittle’s then-chief of staff David Lopez.
“JTD knows of the group and would like to talk to you about it. Can you call him whenever you get a free moment – does not need to be today?”
The e-mail goes on to mention a surprise party being held for Doolittle and asks whether Abramoff would be willing to sign on as a host.
Abramoff forwarded the e-mail to another associate asking her to add Doolittle to his call sheet, but there’s no indication whether he followed up.
Doolittle’s spokeswoman, Laura Blackann, said Julie Doolittle never got any job with Toward Tradition, a nonprofit coalition of Jews and Christians seeking to promote traditional religious principles.
“Julie never went to work for Toward Tradition, she was never offered a job for Toward Tradition and she and the congressman have no recollection about what this e-mail’s about,” Blackann said.
Ring declined a request for comment.
Toward Tradition comes under criticism in Thursday’s Finance Committee report where it was described along with several other nonprofits as apparently “willing to provide certain services for Mr. Abramoff’s clients in exchange for payments.”
The head of Toward Tradition, a friend of Abramoff’s named Rabbi Daniel Lapin, has previously confirmed that the group took $50,000 from two Abramoff clients and used it to hire the wife of a senior aide to then-Rep. Tom DeLay to organize a fall 2000 conference.
Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing in his ties with Abramoff and has said he’s not been contacted by prosecutors in connection with the ongoing investigation. Among other ties, Doolittle accepted campaign money from Abramoff, interceded on behalf of two of his tribal clients and used Abramoff’s luxury sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it.
Julie Doolittle’s company, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc. of Oakton, Va., was paid $66,690 by Abramoff’s firm Greenberg Traurig from September 2002 to February 2004. She was hired to work on a March 2003 fundraiser at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., but the event was canceled after the invasion of Iraq.
Julie Doolittle also does fundraising work for his husband’s campaigns. The set-up has been criticized because she’s paid on commission, so that she gets a cut of every donation the congressman raises. Industry practices generally recommend flat fee payments.