Doolittle defended by district’s Republicans in Abramoff case |

Doolittle defended by district’s Republicans in Abramoff case

Brittany Retherford

Leading Nevada County Republicans rallied behind Rep. John Doolittle Wednesday, despite links that could tie him to Jack Abramoff, the former Washington lobbyist who pleaded guilty this week to felony fraud charges.

“He is one of the most honest people I’ve ever met in my life, he and his wife both. I’d trust them with my kids,” said Tony Gilchrease, chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee.

Betty Hood, an active party member, agreed.

“I admire Congressman Doolittle very much and I’ve known him for a good many years, since we came here in ’81,” she said. “I’ve always felt him to be an honest man.”

Abramoff’s guilty pleas to tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy charges in recent days have been the highlight of an ongoing federal investigation of corruption in Washington. His cooperation with further investigations has potential to encircle many other top political figures in the web of scandal.

Doolittle’s congressional district also encompasses all of El Dorado County.

Dozens of politicians who received funds from Abramoff and his clients have scrambled in recent days to return it or donate the money to charity, including President Bush, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York.

Reports from the Center for Responsive Politics show Doolittle receiving at least $50,000 since 1999 from the Abramoff lobbying team and tribal clients. Calls to Doolittle’s office were not returned Wednesday, so it is uncertain if he plans to return the money he received from the lobbyist.

Hood said she was not yet ready to comment on whether the congressman should give the cash back, saying she was waiting to be better educated on the current situation by Doolittle’s office.

She did say, however, that “if you find that someone has given you money that is not legally obtained and you donate it to a different cause, that is OK; that clears the deck.”

Supervisor John Spencer, who represents the Grass Valley area and who received $2,500 in 2004 in campaign donations from Doolittle, said he does not feel Doolittle should return the money.

“No, because I have no idea under what circumstances he may or may not have received money,” he said. “I know in campaigns, you certainly try and get as much money as you can, and you try to be as careful as you can.”

Spencer said he does not regret accepting contributions from Doolittle and that “we will probably end up accepting money from some of them this campaign (as well). It is just the way it goes. You’ve got to have money to (run a campaign).”

Spencer said he was skeptical of the links being made between Doolittle, a Republican from Roseville, and Abramoff, but was waiting to learn more details before offering an opinion on the investigation.

Gilchrease, however, said “it seems very strange to me that it is all the Republican leadership that seems to be getting targeted; they continue to bash Bush. It is essentially nonsense. Does the (word) conspiracy come in here?”

Gilchrease also pointed out that several Democrats have also received money but said no one is talking about them.

“It would really surprise me if Doolittle is found guilty of accepting bribes,” he said. “It would absolutely overwhelm me.”

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