The wife of a member of the House Republican leadership has been subpoenaed in the widening dragnet cast by a federal grand jury investigating lobbying by Indian gambling interests.
One of an eclectic roster of players in a case that includes a posh D.C. restaurant and Imelda Marcos, Julie Doolittle, the wife of Rep. John Doolittle (Calif.), was subpoenaed earlier this summer in connection with her consulting firm’s work with ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff’s personal and professional life is now under the scrutiny of a grand jury in Washington, as well as a Senate committee.
The lawyer for Julie Doolittle’s marketing and event-planning firm, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, said in an interview that she turned over all her records related to work she did for Abramoff and his former firm, Greenberg Traurig, over a 20-month period from 2002 until Abramoff’s ouster from the firm this past spring, soon after official scrutiny of his work intensified.
The grand jury, whose existence was first reported by a local paper in Louisiana, the American Press of Lake Charles, is being run by a pair of Justice Department lawyers, one of whom is in the agency’s fraud division. They are working with an interagency task force that includes the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service and the Interior Department’s inspector general.
“Sierra Dominion recently received a subpoena regarding these services and cooperated fully by making its records available,” William Stauffer, Julie Doolittle’s attorney, wrote in a statement to Roll Call.
Stauffer emphasized that Julie Doolittle was in no way a target of the investigation, adding that she has not appeared before the grand jury, which wanted to examine records related to Abramoff’s work.
The convening of a federal grand jury is the latest signal of criminal implications faced by Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, the public relations executive who billed more than $30 million worth of work over three years to a handful of tribes that were Abramoff’s clients. The pair is being investigated separately by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which has issued up to two dozen of its own subpoenas in the matter.
While the Indian Affairs panel has focused on the propriety of Abramoff and Scanlon billing tribes for such hefty sums, the federal criminal probe appears to be focused on the interlocking web of financial avenues that Abramoff has established over the past decade — a rise-and-fall story that at its apex had him sitting at the helm of a lobbying shop worth tens of millions of dollars. At one time, Abramoff was considered one of the most powerful lobbyists in the nation.
In addition to Julie Doolittle, whose husband is the House Republican Conference Secretary and has historically been a close Abramoff ally, the grand jury has also subpoenaed records from the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. Dave Sickey, a member of the Coushatta tribal council, said last week that his tribe had until this Saturday to comply with the subpoena.
The American Press reported that subpoenas also have gone out to Greenberg Traurig, several members of Abramoff’s former team of lobbyists and several of Abramoff’s offshoot businesses and charities, including two of his D.C. restaurants: the posh Signatures restaurant and Stacks Deli, which has closed amid the ongoing probes.
In the meantime, Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, was also subpoenaed, the newspaper reported. Abramoff has done work for clients in the Philippines, as well as for other tiny nations in the South Pacific.
Justice Department officials declined to comment on the case, as did Abbe Lowell, Abramoff’s lawyer. Scanlon also declined comment.
Greenberg Traurig, in a statement, essentially confirmed that it has been cooperating with the grand jury. “While observing the professional obligations that our firm has to its clients, we have cooperated with the investigations and will continue to do so,” the firm said.
Stauffer said that Julie Doolittle, who did work on behalf of Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig from August 2002 until March, never did any work with the Coushattas or any other tribe. “Sierra Dominion has never, directly or indirectly, provided services to or on behalf of this tribe or any other tribe or council,” he wrote.
Doolittle did, however, help plan one fund-raising event for Capital Athletic, a nonprofit closely linked to Abramoff, Stauffer said. Internal Revenue Service records show that Capital Athletic received half of its more than $2 million in donations from tribal clients of Abramoff, including $1 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaws.
Abramoff’s family also donated nearly $1 million to the foundation, IRS records show.
That foundation, in turn, was one of the biggest financial backers of the Eshkol Academy, an orthodox Jewish school that Abramoff founded but was forced to close in May amid the investigations. Washington Jewish Week recently reported that the teachers at the school are still owed two months of back pay.
Capital Athletic funneled $1.9 million into the academy, according to the IRS records.
Stauffer emphasized that the work for the Capital Athletic event was the only work Julie Doolittle did that was connected to any of the companies that have been connected publicly to the probe.
“Other than a Capital Athletic fundraising event, no services were provided to or for any of the other companies and persons to whom similar subpoenas were apparently sent,” he said.