By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2007
Less than a week after the FBI raided the Northern Virginia home of his wife, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) gave up his coveted seat on the House Appropriations Committee yesterday amid concerns that he had used that post to advance the interests of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other allies.
"I understand how the most recent circumstances may lead some to question my tenure on the Appropriations Committee," the conservative nine-term congressman wrote in a letter to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "Therefore, I feel it may be in the best interest of the House that I take a temporary leave with seniority from this Committee until this matter can be resolved."
Boehner accepted the decision, saying in a statement that it "is in the best interest of the House and the American people."
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. The couple's house was raided last Friday, the same day that Doolittle's former legislative director, Kevin Ring, abruptly resigned as a lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg. Ring had been an intermediary in Abramoff's hiring of Julie Doolittle's firm as a fundraiser for a charity the lobbyist had founded.
Doolittle also helped steer millions of dollars in military funding to one of the defense contractors tied to the bribery case of former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).
Democratic activists have been watching the Doolittle case for more than a year. The congressman's 2006 challenger, former Air Force pilot Charlie Brown, held Doolittle to 49 percent of the vote, nearly beating him in a strongly Republican district after making his alleged ethical problems a central campaign theme.