The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this year that one of Doolittle’s former aides, Kevin Ring, had been in the Californian’s office in early June on behalf of the tribe. Greenberg Traurig signed up Sac and Fox as a client only days before in late May, according to lobbying records, seeking to win recognition of the new tribal council, which would clear the way for a BIA decision that would allow the casino to reopen.
Doolittle had signed letters on behalf of Abramoff before, but those were designed to prevent casinos from opening, which would have meant competition for Abramoff’s clients but were in line with Doolittle’s anti-gambling position.
On Oct. 7, 2003, Doolittle wrote another letter to Norton, asking her to speed up the federal recognition process for a new Abramoff client, the Mashpee Wampanaog of Massachussetts. Speedy federal recognition for the tribe would have meant a quicker turnaround in opening its casino.
Employment by relatives and spouses has been a focal point of the Abramoff investigation so far, including the guilty plea of Tony Rudy, a former aide to ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) who went to work at Greenberg Traurig in January 2001. In mid-2002 Rudy went to work at Alexander Strategy Group, which was headed by former DeLay Chief of Staff Ed Buckham.
Rudy pleaded guilty to accepting at least $50,000 in payments steered to his wife by Abramoff and Buckham in exchange for his help while working for DeLay in nixing a pair of legislative issues in 2000.
Rep. Doolittle was one of the largest recipients of campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients, about $130,000 in federal and nonfederal donations to his political committees. He has refused to return any of the donations or donate the money to charity as many other lawmakers have done.
One Abramoff client, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, for example, gave $5,000 to Doolittle’s Superior California political action committee on July 3, 2003, the day after Sierra Dominion resumed its retainer deal with Greenberg Traurig.
Superior California and Doolittle’s re-election committee made regular expenditures at Signatures, hosting nine different “meetings” at the restaurant in 2002 and 2003, according to Federal Election Commission records.
For example, on June 17, 2003, five days after writing the Sac and Fox letter for Abramoff, Superior California paid $126 to Signatures for a meeting there.
In addition to her work for Abramoff, Julie Doolittle’s firm has been under scrutiny for its work as the chief fundraising entity for both of Doolittle’s committees, receiving more than $200,000 in commissions in the past five years.
And documents with the Justice Department’s foreign agent office show that Sierra Dominion has worked for the Korean-U.S. Exchange Council, a nonprofit established by Buckham earlier this decade that has whisked more than a dozen Members across the Pacific Ocean for meetings with Korean businessmen.
Rep. Doolittle and his daughter last year went on a 10-day, $29,300 intercontinental jaunt, paid for by KORUSEC and United States-Malaysia Exchange Association, another group with ties to Buckham and ASG.