Under Pressure, Doolittle Leaves Approps Panel

Posted April 19, 2007 at 2:08pm

Facing increasing legal scrutiny into his family’s ties with incarcerated former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) sent a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) today removing himself from his post on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“I am writing to request a temporary leave of absence from my seat on the Committee on Appropriations, effective immediately,” Doolittle wrote. “I understand how the most recent circumstances may lead some to question my tenure on the Appropriations Committee. Therefore, I feel it may be in the best interest of the House that I take a temporary leave with seniority from this Committee until this matter can be resolved.”

While Doolittle voluntarily took himself off the panel while the investigation continues, knowledgeable House sources said that Boehner and members of the Republican Steering Committee — which determines committee assignments — were prepared to remove him from his post if he had not done so himself.

In a statement after receiving Doolittle’s letter, Boehner said: “I accept John’s decision and appreciate his willingness to take this step, which is in the best interest of the House and the American people. John recognizes that if we are to succeed in restoring trust between the American people and their elected leaders, this action is necessary, and I commend him for having the courage to do the right thing. This is a difficult time for John and Julie, and my prayers are with them as they cooperate with this process and work to bring it to resolution.”

The move comes after FBI agents raided Doolittle’s Oakton, Va., home on Friday, seeking documents related to his wife, Julie, and her fundraising firm, Sierra Dominion. That same day a former Doolittle staffer who had worked with Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig, Kevin Ring, resigned from his post at a top Washington lobbying firm, Barnes & Thornburg. The Doolittles have been under legal scrutiny for three years regarding both of their ties to Abramoff.

The nine-term California Republican is a mid-ranking member on Appropriations, and sits on three of the panel’s subcommittees: Energy and water, Interior and legislative branch.