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Ex-congressman John Doolittle steps into new lobbying role

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Former U.S. Rep. John Doolittle has returned to Washington, D.C.’s Beltway – this time as a lobbyist. But his heart’s still in Placer County and – with homes in both Roseville and Virginia – he anticipates spending more time here than there. Doolittle’s move back into the world of politics was signaled locally earlier this month when the city of Colfax signed on for up to $30,000 a year as a client with need for help on wastewater issues. As a legislative advocate, Doolittle can dip into a wellspring of knowledge on the inner workings of Washington politics. He served from 1991 to early 2009 as District 4 congressman and several years in Republican Party congressional leadership posts “It’s related to what I did but at the same time, it’s completely different,” Doolittle said. “It’s up to me to find clients and it’s also the start of a new business. It’s odd to go through that transition.” Besides the Colfax contract, Doolittle said he’s also working with Sacramento-based REsource Capital California, which offers loans to small businesses under the SBA 504 program. Doolittle said that he and his wife, Julie, anticipate spending more time in California now that their daughter, Courtney is in college. His work in Washington as a member of Congress also kept him away longer than he would have liked, he said. Julie Doolittle’s home business, Sierra Dominion Services, became embroiled in political controversy while her husband was still in office, as Justice Department and FBI investigators probed the finances of Doolittle and several other Republican congressmen. Doolittle’s friendship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Sierra Dominion’s $180,000 in commissions from the Superior California Political Action Committee also drew attention from investigators but no prosecutions. Sierra Dominion has one or two small clients but Doolittle said his wife is hoping not to work – other than assist him with his new lobbying role. Doolittle continues to chafe over an investigation he said the Justice Department has told his attorney in June was over and cost more than half a million dollars in attorney’s fees to defend. Doolittle said that others, including the husband of former press secretary Laura Blackann, were forced into pleading guilty on charges that they couldn’t afford to fight in court because of the costs. “It cost us over $500,000 but we felt we had to dig in and fight to the death,” Doolittle said. With an ongoing Justice Department investigation casting a shadow over his run for another term in 2008, Doolittle chose to retire. State Sen. Tom McClintock won the Republican nomination and beat Democrat Charlie Brown to replace Doolittle as congressman. “Tom’s got a tough job and I think he’s doing well,” Doolittle said. “Stop the growth of government. Cut spending. Those are exactly what I would like to see happen.” The Colfax contract has raised questions with some. Leslye Janusz, a member of the Auburn Area Democratic Club said her first reaction after reading about it was “Why?” “Why hire a lobbyist when we have a congressman – Tom McClintock – to do that?” Janusz said. “That’s what he’s being paid for – to bring back funding for the district’s needs.” Doolittle said he had to wait at least a year before registering as a lobbyist. He did so this summer and is now – at age 59 – ready for new challenges. He said his background in energy, water and wastewater issues in Congress should be particularly valuable as seeks to expand his client base. And while the Justice Department investigation seems to be behind him, he’s still awaiting return of what was taken by investigators in a search of his Virginia home. “We could file in court for their return but that’s a $10,000 expense,” Doolittle said. “We’ve been bled dry. I’m not inclined to waste any more money for attorneys.” Doolittle said the Justice Department investigation and his subsequent decision to retire as District 4 congressman points to some troubling issues surrounding a legal system that had been established on the foundation of trials by peers. “The way it works today is they just use the investigation as a summary form of punishment,” Doolittle said. “If they can do it to me, any citizen is vulnerable.”