Doolittle’s d’oh!

No matter how much we disliked the super- conservative politics of local Representative John Doolittle, it was hard from the start to believe that he’d wind up getting badly tarnished in the Washington, D.C., influence-peddling scandals that center on indicted and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It’s true that, since 1999, the Roseville congressman’s campaign fund and political action committee received $14,000 in contributions directly from Abramoff and $131,000 if you widen the circle to include the defamed lobbyist’s associates and clients.

But Doolittle had the reputation of a straight arrow, a Mormon who worked hard and got things done. The revelation that he’d held an event at Abramoff’s arena skybox and that his wife, Julie, was being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with her fund-raising for Abramoff made the Doolittles’ relationship with the lobbyist seem a bit cozy. But it wasn’t exactly a smoking gun.

Indeed, Doolittle seemed genuinely assured when he went on KFBK last month and accused the liberal media of making too much of what was merely a “friendship” with Abramoff. He invited examination: “If you’re concerned about me, come investigate me,” said the congressman.

Um, perhaps he spoke a bit too soon.

A few days after his KFBK appearance, the San Diego Union Tribune broke a story that revealed that, between 2003 and 2005, Doolittle had helped a company called PerfectWave win what are called “earmarks” (a term for “pork” projects that wind up resulting in political contributions for politicians) worth more than $40 million for the San Diego company as it peddled a defense technology that the Navy didn’t even seem to want.

Turns out that between 2002 and 2005, Doolittle and his political action committee received $85,000 in contributions from a PerfectWave lobbyist and his relatives, employees and partners.

But that’s not all.

Recently, the Associated Press broke a story about his support for an Iowa American Indian tribe’s effort to settle a dispute so as to reopen a casino. Former Doolittle legislative director Kevin Ring, who’d become a lobbyist who worked for Jack Abramoff, is the man who introduced members of Iowa’s Meskwaki tribe to Doolittle in June 2003.

A few days after the meeting with Ring, Doolittle wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton scalding the Bureau of Indian Affairs and pressing for elections to end the tribe’s dispute. Soon, the dispute was over, and the casino reopened. So, yes, an anti-gambling congressman from Roseville helped an Indian tribe in Iowa reopen a casino. About a year later, a $5,000 political contribution came to Doolittle’s political action committee from the tribe.

So far, none of the above seems to have harmed Doolittle much in his district. Now in re-election mode, the congressman pulled in $183,500 in contributions during the last three months of 2005 and has a total of $300,000 in the bank.

At the very least it’s safe to conclude that our initial impression, that Doolittle likely would skate away from the scandal, was premature. Stay tuned.