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Doolittle’s Rat PAC

Representative John Doolittle (CA-4) is, by all reports, a devote Mormon. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. And, he is vehemently anti-gambling. Except, apparently, when being pro-gambling helps out his friend Jack Abramoff’s clients.

Why would a straight-laced guy like Doolittle hold a Republican Party fund raiser in Las Vegas? Why do people rob banks? That’s where the money is says Doolittle in the Sacramento Bee.

According to Doolittle, Las Vegas “is a place that our target audience, namely these $5,000 donors, would like to go.”

More from the Strip follows.

The Bee focuses on a major Doolittle fund raising event held at the exclusive and expensive Venetian Resort Hotel Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The 2005 event was designed to haul in big bucks for Doolittle and the Republicans.

Behind the need for fundraisers such as Doolittle’s is the increased demand for money to fuel political campaigns. As a member of the House leadership, Doolittle is required to raise $250,000 for House Republicans each year.

When asked about that, Doolittle said he had just been told he needed to raise an additional $100,000 for an upcoming House Republican dinner.

So, in essence Doolittle was sent out by his party’s leadership to raise money so that the crew in Washington could have a nice meal.
We don’t know what kind of deals had to be struck to insure that congressional Republicans were able to eat filet mignon instead of hamburger, but we do know that Doolittle’s event featured a stellar cast of co-conspirators and potential government witnesses.

…the biggest draw of all for the Doolittle event – then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

DeLay, now facing a trial in Texas for campaign finance irregularities, knew them all. Under pressure from House Republicans worried about the growing Abramoff scandal, DeLay permanently surrendered his commanding leadership job in December.

Former DeLay staffers who started the now-infamous Alexander Strategy Group lobbying firm were there with DeLay.

The firm, which closed its doors last month as a result of the scandals, employed DeLay’s wife. Among its clients were those connected both to Abramoff and to defense contractors whose cash payments to Cunningham brought down the Vietnam War hero.

DeLay flew into Las Vegas on the private corporate jet of Group W, one of the companies owned by Brent Wilkes. Doolittle’s PAC paid $358.50 for DeLay’s privileged seat.

Doolittle pays the standard commercial airfare and DeLay rides out to Vegas on Brent Wilkes’ private jet. Just business as usual for Doolittle. But, not only did Wilkes provide DeLay with a $20,000 private jet ride, Wilkes also had some sugar for his pal Doolittle.

Wilkes also attended Doolittle’s event, giving Doolittle $10,000 in personal and PAC checks, almost certainly unaware that his businesses would be raided about two months later as federal agents built their bribery case against Cunningham.

Also attending was Ed Buckham, DeLay’s former chief of staff and a founder of the Alexander Strategy Group. Buckham was Wilkes’ lobbyist.

Doolittle said it may have been Buckham who first introduced him to Wilkes, setting up a relationship that the congressman says he still cannot believe was tainted by corruption.

Karl Gallant, another Alexander Strategy Group lobbyist, was there. He also ran DeLay’s political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority.

Not since the days of Sinatra has Vegas seen a “rat pack” to equal this crowd. Although, now days the “pack” has been replaced by “PAC”. And speaking of PACs, Julie Doolittle was in attendance with her husband.

By the time of the fundraiser – Doolittle’s second at the Las Vegas complex – his wife, Julie, already had been subpoenaed by the Justice Department for business records related to work she had done for an Abramoff interest, the Capital Athletic Foundation.

John Doolittle continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong. Yet, it is hard to understand how a man who claims to have such a strong moral compass could surround himself with so much corruption and remain untainted by it.

Doolittle’s personal morality may not have been compromised by his association with Abramoff, Wilkes, DeLay and their retainers, but his public morality certainly seems to have been sold to the highest bidder.