I found the floowing on the Sacremento BEE web site, and thought it might be a nice Christams present for all Democrats and for those Republicans who are unhappy by the vulgarity and lack of morality displayed over the last five years by God’s Own Party. The story indicates how I think the GOP is going down this year.
Watchdog report: Closer look at wife’s income
Recent fundraising probes bring scrutiny to Doolittle’s spouse.
By David Whitney — Bee Washington Bureau
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, December 24, 2005
WASHINGTON – A business operated by the wife of Rep. John Doolittle has pumped more than $136,000 into the family’s finances over the last three years from commissions on fundraising for the Roseville Republican’s federal political action committee.
Julie Doolittle’s company has been paid commissions amounting to about 15 percent of the $905,000 the congressman’s PAC has received in contributions over the last three years, a figure the congressman’s office did not dispute. At that rate, more than $10,000 of her company’s earnings would have come from a handful of large contributors linked to ongoing corruption investigations.
The arrangement between Julie Doolittle’s company, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, and her husband’s Superior California Federal Leadership Fund is not illegal. More than a dozen congressional spouses are similarly paid.
But in the aftermath of the resignation of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes from defense contractors, and the ongoing investigation of former high-flying Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, for whom Julie Doolittle’s company also worked, her business is drawing greater scrutiny.
A new group called Californians for a Cleaner Congress, funded by labor and Democratic-leaning groups but officially nonpartisan, is raising questions about Julie Doolittle’s business and the fact that it contributes to the congressman’s income.
San Diego attorney Stanley Zubel, who is heading the organization, said that unless Julie Doolittle has a fundraising background qualifying her for the job and pay, “then what this really is is nepotism that is basically enriching the family, which means the congressman is personally benefiting from people who contribute to his campaigns.”
Over the last three years, Doolittle’s political action committee has accepted $32,000 from Indian tribes and associates of Abramoff. It also has accepted $30,000 from Brent Wilkes, his wife and his company, ADCS; all were implicated in the Cunningham bribery scandal.
Unlike some other members of Congress who accepted contributions from those contributors, Doolittle has no plans to return any of the money, because it was legally given and he has done nothing wrong in receiving it, according to his office.
Neither the congressman nor Julie Doolittle has agreed to take questions directly from reporters, choosing instead to respond through intermediaries.
Richard Robinson, the congressman’s chief of staff who also is active in his re-election campaign, said Julie Doolittle was hired because she’s good at raising money.
“We have tried several other Washington-based PAC fundraisers in the past and none has matched Sierra Dominion Financial’s hard work and effectiveness,” he said. “Julie has significant experience in fundraising and event planning, and has performed similar duties for several clients.”
Sierra Dominion has other clients besides John Doolittle’s political action committee, but Julie Doolittle’s attorney, William Stauffer Jr., declined to say who they are.
But Robinson acknowledged that one such client is the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council created by South Korean industrialist Kim Seung-youn for which Sierra Dominion provides bookkeeping services. In recent years, the group has flown nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican House members to South Korea, John Doolittle among them.
The council was set up with the help of former staffers to Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who was then the House majority leader and for whom Doolittle has been a loyal lieutenant.
Published reports raised ethical questions in March about some of the congressional travel paid for by the group because it is registered as a foreign agent. But the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee has been in a political deadlock most of the year and has not launched any investigations. Robinson said Sierra Dominion has not been asked to provide any information to anyone regarding the Korean group.
Robinson said both Rep. Doolittle and the Korean group had written the House ethics committee in advance of the trip Doolittle took, and that the panel had approved it. “At no time was the congressman made aware that (the group) was a foreign agent,” he said.
No other member of Congress or political action committee has reported paying Julie Doolittle’s company, although in the last few months she has begun receiving commissions amounting to less than $2,000 for fundraising for the congressman’s re-election committee, the John T. Doolittle for Congress committee.
Between 2002 and March 2004, Sierra Dominion worked for Abramoff, a close friend of the congressman who is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into his high-priced work for gambling tribes. Rep. Doolittle also is reportedly being scrutinized in that investigation.
Sierra Dominion’s records were subpoenaed by the grand jury last year. Stauffer said at the time that the grand jury seemed to be focused on Julie Doolittle’s work for Capital Athletic Foundation, which was run by Abramoff, and a particular fundraising event that was never held because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
John Doolittle also has a state leadership PAC, the Superior California State Leadership Fund, that has received contributions from many of the same donors who have given to his federal PAC. The state PAC has not been active this year, and it has not reported any payments to Sierra Dominion in previous election cycles.
Many House and Senate members employ relatives in their campaigns, sometimes more than one.
According to watchdog groups and the Federal Election Commission, such arrangements are perfectly proper as long as the spouse is doing work for the pay, and the pay is commensurate with what others receive.
“Certainly if relatives have experience in it, and that’s their profession, and they are earning their keep, it is not a problem,” said Robert M. Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an expert in campaign finance.
It’s not clear what experience Julie Doolittle has in the field, and John Doolittle’s office declined to provide specifics, citing fear of revealing the names of clients, which Robinson said “we are not willing to do out of respect for their privacy.”
According to the congressman’s personal financial reports which are filed annually with the clerk of the House, however, it appears that Julie Doolittle has been working since at least 1997 in the event planning, bookkeeping and fundraising business. That’s when the congressman first reported her receiving an income from a company called Events Plus.
The amount of spousal income does not have to be reported on the House forms.
In 1999, Julie Doolittle took on what Robinson said was a bookkeeping job with Impact Strategies, a small Washington-area lobbying company run by Jeff Fedorchak, who has been the lobbyist for the Placer County Water Agency.
By 2002, Julie Doolittle’s only reported source of income was from Sierra Dominion. Virginia corporation records show she formed the company in 2001 out of the couple’s suburban Virginia home and is listed as the president.
The Bee reviewed records for 14 spouses employed to work on the committees of their husbands or wives.
Julie Doolittle’s business is different from others. She is the only one who is paid a commission; the rest receive salaries, sometimes with bonuses, or a “fee.”
Stern said that while commissions are typical in the professional fundraising business, they might present special complications for spouses working for House or Senate members because the spouses could end up being paid for contributions they didn’t bring in.
“Lots of fundraisers work on commission, so that’s not unusual,” he said. “But of course (Rep. Doolittle) is raising money, too, and he’s sort of getting a commission on the money he is raising. I’d think it would be better if she were just paid a straight salary.”
But Robinson said that Julie Doolittle’s company is paid a commission because that seems cleaner.
“Sierra Dominion Financial’s compensation is based entirely upon performance in that it receives a percentage of what it is directly involved in raising,” he said.
“This arrangement is not only consistent with that of other fundraisers, but is designed to avoid the appearance that Sierra Dominion Financial is compensated for anything other than its tireless and effective work,” Robinson said. “Any suggestion otherwise is completely without merit.”
Leadership PACs such as Doolittle’s are used to curry favor with other House and Senate members. During the 2003-2004 elections cycle, for example, Doolittle’s PAC raised nearly $497,000 on which his wife earned commissions. He contributed about $225,000 of the fund to Republican candidates and causes.
Doolittle is secretary of the House Republican caucus and aspires to higher leadership posts.
Julie Doolittle is not the highest-paid congressional spouse who is working for a husband or wife’s fundraising committee.
During the 2003-2004 election cycle, for example, the campaign of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, paid more than $122,000 to a company in which her husband, John Collins, is involved. And DeLay’s wife, Christine DeLay, was paid fees of $92,096 for her work for the congressman’s leadership PAC.
During that election cycle, according to the review by The Bee, Julie Doolittle’s work for her husband’s PAC came in third, at $77,929.
This year, Sierra Dominion is at the top of the pay scale for spouse-connected fundraising.
So far, it has been paid $58,221 in commissions, topping the runner-up, Jane Filner, wife of Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, who is paid a flat salary of $4,000 a month.
About the writer:
The Bee’s David Whitney can be reached at (202) 383-0004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.