Doolittle Aides Subpoenaed in Probe

The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 4, 2007; 6:17 PM

WASHINGTON -- Two of GOP Rep. John Doolittle's top aides have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury investigating ties between Doolittle, his wife and jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia were issued to Chief of Staff Ron Rogers and Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Blankenburg. They were announced on the House floor as Congress returned from its August recess Tuesday after the aides informed the House speaker about the subpoenas, as required under House rules.

Blankenburg and Rogers wrote in identical letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they would consult with House counsel before deciding how to respond.

But Doolittle said in a statement that his aides would testify before the grand jury "with hopes of putting the matter to an end."

"I think everyone can agree that this issue needs closure," said Doolittle, R-Calif. "Three years seems like more than adequate time to determine the facts. I look forward to the truth finally being established and hope that we may have a resolution soon."

Rogers and Blankenburg did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Justice Department spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch declined comment.

Blankenburg has worked for Doolittle since 2005 in Washington while Rogers, who's based in California, joined Doolittle's staff earlier this year.

FBI agents raided Doolittle's Oakton, Va., home in April looking for information about his wife Julie's fundraising business, which had done work for Abramoff.

Doolittle, a nine-term incumbent from a conservative district in northern California, has denied any wrongdoing. However he has been paying a criminal defense attorney for about a year, and after the raid on his home he stepped down from the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Doolittle has numerous ties to Abramoff, including accepting campaign cash from the lobbyist and intervening on behalf of Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.

Abramoff's lobbying firm also paid Julie Doolittle's Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc. a near-monthly $5,000 retainer from September 2002 to February 2004, mostly to work on a fundraiser that was canceled after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Sierra Dominion's records were subpoenaed by the Abramoff grand jury in 2004.

Doolittle has said he believes investigators are trying to determine whether his wife Julie did real work in exchange for the payments from Abramoff _ which the congressman insists she did. He has claimed that the raid on his home was an attempt to intimidate him after he refused to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit.

Doolittle is the only sitting member of Congress known to be under active investigation in the Abramoff case, which has netted a dozen convictions from Bush administration and congressional aides as well as a guilty plea from now imprisoned former Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio.

Political pressure on Doolittle has intensified since the FBI raid on his home, and he is facing increasing Republican opposition at home. Several locally known Republicans are considering running against him in next year's GOP primary.

© 2007 The Associated Press