Congressman in Abramoff probe says he won't resign

WASHINGTON—Rep. John Doolittle, bucking pundits in The Wall Street Journal, The Sacramento Bee and other newspapers, said Thursday that he wouldn't resign his seat in the House of Representatives because investigators were looking at his wife and him in the ramped-up federal corruption investigation arising out of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

"There is no way I am stepping down," Doolittle declared in a telephone news conference with California reporters. "I am not resigning. Absolutely not."

The California Republican suggested that the Abramoff investigation soon could spread even wider.

Doolittle said he had information from sources he wouldn't name that federal agents had executed search warrants recently against two other members of Congress—a Republican and a Democrat—in raids that hadn't become public yet. He said he thought that those raids were related to the Abramoff probe.

The Justice Department refuses to comment on the investigation, not even acknowledging that the FBI raided the Doolittles' house last month.

Doolittle said prosecutors thought that Abramoff had used Julie Doolittle's business, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, to funnel money to the congressman in exchange for him helping the convicted lobbyist's clients.

"Their theory seems to be that she is a conduit," Doolittle said, adding that he and his wife have clear consciences.

"We've certainly made every effort to be ethical and lawful in complying with the laws relative to Julie's work," he said. "We are utterly shocked that our government is suspecting us of committing a crime. ... I cannot believe that this is how our system of justice can work in this country."

House rules require members to notify leaders immediately when they've been served with subpoenas. But there are no such rules applying to search warrants, which judges issue only after prosecutors affirm that they think there's probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.

The Doolittles' house in Oakton, Va., was searched under such an assertion April 13. Three computers belonging to Julie Doolittle's business were seized, along with files. The computers were returned last week, but Doolittle said his attorneys had been told that agents hadn't yet looked at the business files.

An Abramoff charity, the Capital Athletic Fund, employed Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions to do fundraising.

It also has been paid a 15 percent commission for raising money for John Doolittle's election committee and his political action committee. Critics allege that that arrangement is a backdoor way of delivering money directly to the congressman.

Since the raid, Doolittle has said he's planning to establish a legal defense fund so that he can solicit contributions from people and businesses to pick up his escalating legal costs.

He said Thursday that a separate legal-defense fund will be set up for Julie Doolittle. The House Standards of Official Conduct Committee must approve both.

Asked why separate funds are necessary, Doolittle said the Justice Department had urged them to hire separate lawyers because it thought that "there is a potential conflict of interest between my wife and me."

Related stories from McClatchy DC