Democracy 21 renews calls for Doolittle probe

Government watchdog group Democracy 21 singled out Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) for special scrutiny yesterday, renewing its call for the ethics committee to conduct an investigation into multiple potential ethics violations by the lawmaker.

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said there is no evidence that the committee had taken any action about Doolittle in the last Congress even though his group and a series of press reports raised serious questions about whether Doolittle violated House ethics rules. Now that all of the new committee members have been named, Wertheimer wrote in a letter to the panel, it’s time the committee conduct an investigation on its own authority into the lawmaker’s actions and ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now serving time in jail.

Specifically, Wertheimer points to Doolittle’s practice of paying his wife’s company a 15 percent commission on all contributions that the company raised for Doolittle’s campaign committee and leadership political action committee (PAC) and whether it violated House ethics rules. He also called on the committee to look into whether fees paid to Doolittle’s wife, Julie Doolittle, on contributions indicted defense contractor Brent Wilkes and his associates made to his campaign committee and PAC were linked or appeared to be linked to any official action Doolittle took to help Wilkes’s company obtain millions of dollars in government earmarks.

Wilkes was recently indicted in connection with the investigation stemming from former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-Calif.) bribery conviction and jailing.

Doolittle spokesman Richard Robinson said, “This is a phony, left-wing group that is admittedly recycling the same baseless allegations that it has already raised numerous times with the ethics committee to no avail. We don’t expect this latest partisan attack to yield any different result because it remains completely without merit.”

Wertheimer wants the panel to probe media reports that claim that Doolittle intervened in support of Abramoff’s tribal clients in matters involving gambling licenses pending at the Department of the Interior.