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The indictment of one of Jack Abramoffs lobbying associates on Monday offered a new picture of the direct contacts between Abramoffs lobbying team and Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), including a hint that Doolittle spoke to former Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) about a project on Abramoffs behalf.
The indictment also details again a series of favors that Abramoffs team allegedly provided to former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), whose chief of staff has already pleaded guilty in the probe.
Doolittles attorney, David Barger, said in a statement: Not once in this document does the Department of Justice allege any sort of illegal agreement between Congressman Doolittle, on the one hand, and Kevin Ring or Jack Abramoff, on the other. To the extent the Indictment can be read to imply such an agreement, the Congressman continues to steadfastly maintain there was none and that he is innocent.
Istook could not be reached for comment.
The Justice Department on Monday unsealed a 10-count indictment against Kevin Ring a former senior staffer to Doolittle and later a member of Abramoffs lobbying team alleging that Ring provided gifts to several public officials to reward them for taking actions beneficial to Rings clients.
The Justice Department alleges that Ring and others identified public officials who could be helpful to their clients, and then groomed those public officials by providing things of value with the intent of making those public officials more receptive to requests on behalf of their clients in the future.
The indictment spells out rafts of gifts, including tickets to sporting events and free meals, that Ring provided to Congressional staff, Members of Congress and Justice Department officials in exchange for their assistance on matters benefitting clients of Abramoffs lobbying team.
Ring, 37, was arrested Monday. His attorney, Richard Hibey, said that he was indicted because he simply could not plead guilty to crimes he did not commit and promised to fully contest these charges.
The indictment alleges that Representative 5 who could only be Doolittle given the other details of the indictment engaged in lengthy and detailed negotiations with Ring and Abramoff over the lobbyists promise to find a job for Doolittles wife. Abramoff ultimately hired Julia Doolittle in 2002, paying her a total of about $96,000 to do little work for him.
Hibey issued a statement Monday afternoon arguing that Ring had made every effort to cooperate with the Justice Department investigation of Abramoff. Ring voluntarily sat for about 100 hours of interviews with federal agents, Hibey said, but in 2007, when a new cadre of DOJ lawyers took over the case, the government insisted that Mr. Ring plead guilty to various fraud and corruption-related offenses and to implicate others as the price of leniency. When Ring refused, he was tabbed uncooperative, Hibey said.
The indictment suggests that Doolittle was taking a series of actions at the behest of Abramoff and Ring, including helping team Abramoff secure a $16.3 million Justice Department grant for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to build a jail.