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FBI Searches Congressman's Home

By James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 8:34 PM

The FBI on Friday raided the Northern Virginia home consulting business owned by the wife of Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), whose ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff have been under investigation for two years, sources familiar with the matter said. Agents seized computers and documents.

Doolittle's wife, Julie, operates Sierra Dominion Financial Services Inc. out of the couple's home in Oakton. Since 2005, a Justice Department task force has been looking into payments made by Abramoff and other lobbyists to Doolittle's wife and the spouses of other lawmakers.

Julie Doolittle has denied wrongdoing. "Sierra Dominion Financial Services, and its owner, Mrs. Julie Doolittle, have cooperated for years, and continue to cooperate, in the ongoing investigation of the Jack Abramoff matter," her attorney, William L. Stauffer Jr., said.

Doolittle said in a statement, "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. I support my wife 100 percent and fully expect that the truth will prevail."

On Friday, Kevin Ring, who served as legislative director to Doolittle before joining Abramoff's lobbying team, resigned as a lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg. Ring also has been under Justice Department scrutiny. The timing of his resignation was coincidental , sources said.

Abramoff hired Julie Doolittle's firm to raise funds for a charity he founded. Sources said that Ring was an intermediary in the hiring of Julie Doolittle's firm, which last year received a subpoena from the federal grand jury investigating Abramoff.

Julie Doolittle also was paid about $30,000 for bookkeeping work for a nonprofit firm set up by another lobbying group, the Alexander Strategy Group. The Washington Post reported last year that ASG, a firm founded by Edwin Buckham, former chief of staff to Tom DeLay, set up the U.S. Korea-U.S. Exchange Council for the benefit of the Hanwha Group, a South Korean conglomerate. The council paid for luxury trips abroad for members of Congress.

Buckham and DeLay are also under scrutiny in Abramoff, according to lawyers and witnesses with knowledge of the probe.

Some of the lawmakers on the trips, including Doolittle, were in positions to help other Alexander Strategy clients. Doolittle, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, told The Post last year that that from 2002 to 2005 he sponsored $37 million in spending-bill earmarks that went to a firm controlled by a key Alexander Strategy client. The client, Brent R. Wilkes, is a target of the federal investigation stemming from the bribery case and guilty plea of former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). Doolittle has said he believed his trips were proper and unrelated to earmarks.

Stauffer has told The Washington Post previously that Sierra Dominion was hired by Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's law firm, to provide "event planning, marketing and related services, as requested by Mr. Abramoff," for Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation and his Signatures restaurant. Sierra Dominion received a monthly retainer from Greenberg Traurig from January 2003 until February 2004, at a rate similar to that paid by other Sierra Dominion clients, Stauffer said. Abramoff frequently used the athletic foundation as a pass-through organization to run lobbying efforts and to pay for expenses, records show.

Doolittle drew strong criticism for employing his wife as his campaign fundraiser, and said in January he will no longer do so. Julie Doolittle has collected more than $100,000 from donors--15 percent of what was raised--since 2003.

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