Another Republican Congressman linked to Abramoff


    A California congressman who accepted campaign cash from disgraced
    ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and used his sports box for a fundraiser
    interceded on behalf of two American Indian tribes that were
    represented by Abramoff’s firm, documents show.

    GOP Rep. John
    Doolittle wrote Interior Secretary Gale Norton in June 2003 criticizing
    the Bush administration’s response to a tribal government dispute
    involving the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. In
    October 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to the secretary for
    quicker action for a Massachusetts tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, that
    was seeking federal recognition.

    Both tribes signed on with
    Abramoff’s lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, that year. Sac & Fox
    hired the firm in May, the Wampanoags in November. Neither tribe
    appears tied to Doolittle’s rural Northern California district, and
    Doolittle is not on the House committee that handles Indian issues.

    The letters were obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Doolittle’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    In
    a radio interview a week ago, Doolittle said he did nothing wrong in
    his relations with Abramoff. He described Abramoff as a friend who
    rarely lobbied the lawmaker.

    Doolittle also disputed reports by
    the AP and other news organizations that his ties to Abramoff have
    caught the attention of federal investigators. Abramoff pleaded guilty
    this month to corruption charges and agreed to tell the FBI about
    bribes to lawmakers and their aides.

    “Come investigate me, come contact me, because I know what the truth is and I’ll come out with a clean record,” Doolittle said.

    The
    letters are the latest example of connections between Abramoff’s
    interests and Doolittle, a conservative ally of former House Majority
    Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and a member of the House GOP leadership.

    Doolittle
    accepted at least $14,000 in campaign money from Abramoff from 1999 to
    2001, records show, and initially failed to report a 1999 fundraiser in
    Abramoff’s sky box, as required.

    He took tens of thousands of
    dollars more from Abramoff’s tribal clients, including $5,000 in 2004
    from the Sac & Fox tribe, also known as the Meskwaki.

    Doolittle’s
    wife did fundraising work for Abramoff, and a former Doolittle aide
    later went to work as a lobbyist for Greenberg Traurig.

    Doolittle
    was among more than two dozen lawmakers who signed a February 2002
    letter to Norton urging her to reject an Indian casino in Louisiana
    opposed by Abramoff’s tribal clients. After that letter became public
    in November, Doolittle’s spokeswoman, Laura Blackann, said he signed it
    only because of his “longheld anti-gaming position.”

    In his
    letter to Norton about the Sac & Fox Tribe, Doolittle complained
    that the tribe’s casino was wrongly shut down because BIA refused to
    recognize a newly elected tribal council. The new council hired
    Abramoff’s firm after the elections.

    “I fear that the Bureau of
    Indian Affairs (BIA) has ignored precedent during the course of the
    tribe’s governance dispute and its failure to lead has resulted in
    significant economic damage to the tribe and surrounding region,”
    Doolittle wrote.

    Ultimately BIA oversaw new elections and
    certified victory by the Abramoff-backed faction, and the casino
    reopened. The losing faction is now suing, suggesting BIA officials may
    have been influenced by Abramoff.

    In the case of the Mashpee
    tribe, Doolittle wrote Norton, “It appears that they have been forced
    to wait too long to receive an answer to their petition for
    recognition.”

    The Mashpee tribe now appears on the verge of
    attaining recognition. The federal government has promised a
    preliminary decision by March on the tribe’s long-standing application.