From NBC's Joel Seidman
Prosecutors, in their continuing influence-peddling investigation of convicted super lobbyist Jack Abramoff, have issued subpoenas to California Republican Rep. John Doolittle and five of his staff members, seeking office records dating back more than 10 years.
Doolittle's attorney David G. Barger argued that the U.S. Constitution protects Members of Congress from legal inquiries into legislative acts. "These efforts raise serious Constitutional issues going to the very core of our separation of powers created by the Founding Fathers," Barger said in a statement.
Barger said the prosecutors wanted "virtually every record including legislative records for the congressman for the past 11 years."
Neither Doolittle nor his lawyer has indicated in their statement, which records prosecutors are seeking to obtain. In April, the FBI raided Doolittle's house in Oakton, Va., where his wife, Julie, ran a fundraising company linked to Abramoff. She owned Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions.
According to a Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation released last year, the firm was retained by Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, and earned $66,000 from Abramoff. The committee report also details money paid by Abramoff's law firm, which include eight $5,000 payments to Julie Doolittle beginning in July 2003.
Rep. Doolittle accepted $14,000 in contributions directly from Abramoff in 1999. The first contribution came just a few weeks before Doolittle endorsed the election of a key politician in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, a key Abramoff client at the time, according to the committee report. The last Abramoff contribution to Doolittle came as the Northern Marianas lobbying contract was expiring in December 2001. Doolittle helped block labor reforms the Marianas and also used Abramoff's luxury sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it.
According to the documents, Rep. Doolittle also wrote a letter to then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in support of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, an Abramoff client. The letter asked Norton to allow the tribe to re-open a gaming casino that had been shut down by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The letter was written at the same time that Sierra Dominion was receiving payments from Abramoff's lobby firm.
The five staffers who were served subpoenas are Alisha Perkins, the office scheduler; chief of staff Ron Rogers; deputy chief of staff Dan Blankenburg; Gordon Hinkle, Doolittle's field representative and spokesman in Granite Bay; and legislative director Evan Goitein. Blankenburg and Perkins appeared under subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the lobbying scandal in U.S. District Court.
A release issued by Doolittle said, "The five staff members, who have been assured by DOJ that they are merely witnesses, will confer with the Office of the General Counsel for the United States House of Representatives to determine how to respond to these subpoenas."
Doolittle was also subpoenaed, along with 11 House members, by defense attorneys representing Brent Wilkes, the former defense contractor charged with bribing now imprisoned ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Attorneys in the Office of General Counsel of the House of Representatives filed a motion Wednesday in federal court in San Diego to quash those subpoenas.
Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida-based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case. He has yet to be sentenced for his role in the Washington lobbying scandal.