Long time gone

It was way back in 1984 when I first set eyes on then-state Senator John Doolittle. I was a freelance writer at the time and had been sent to a hearing of the Fair Political Practices Commission by the editor of CN&R in Chico. (SN&R hadn’t yet come into existence; this was my first-ever story for N&R.) Following the inquiry, Doolittle was fined $3,000 for campaign violations because his Republican operation, while in a three-way race for a state Senate seat, actually had funded a mass mailer in support of the Democratic candidate, i.e., they’d attempted to pull votes away from an Independent opponent so as to win the contest.

I don’t remember much about the hearing except that it was hard to get a look at Doolittle, who, in fact, had won his prized seat by the time the FPPC got around to calling on him. It was hard to see his face because Doolittle sat facing commissioners, but with his back to the press, Capitol staffers and Sacramento lay people who composed the small audience present at the semi-judicial proceeding.

Looking back, it seems Doolittle’s kept his back turned ever since.

Now, it is true that the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Doolittle (which includes as fodder he and his wife Julie’s disgraceful fund-raising arrangement) is still ongoing. Doolittle has not been convicted; he has denied wrongdoing. However, when the FBI raids a home, it means a judge has found probable cause that a crime has been committed.

As the congressman’s constituents, we can only guess what will happen next. Whatever it is, one thing is clear: Dolittle’s career in politics is over.

In this week’s cover story, “Will Doolittle do time?” SN&R’s Ralph Brave and Kel Munger do a terrific job of laying out—game-board style—the high points of Doolittle’s extended dive from political grace.

His fall has been a long time coming. And, as some rock musician from another era might tell us, it’s going to be a long time gone.