WASHINGTON – California GOP Rep. John Doolittle's former legislative director said Wednesday he has been contacted by federal investigators in their probe of Doolittle's ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Pete Evich, Doolittle's legislative director from 1998 to 2002 and now a lobbyist, told The Associated Press that he plans to talk to the Justice Department soon.
The news comes two days after an attorney for another former Doolittle aide, former chief of staff David Lopez, said he'd given documents to federal prosecutors under subpoena.
Evich's disclosure suggests prosecutors are widening their investigation in the wake of an FBI raid on Doolittle's home in April that led him to give up his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
"Representatives of the Department of Justice recently contacted me regarding their investigation of Congressman Doolittle," Evich said in a statement. "I have been told that I am not a focus of the investigation and I plan to voluntarily speak with them in the near future."
Doolittle's lawyer did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment and Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined comment.
A third former Doolittle aide, Kevin Ring, went on to work as a lobbyist with Abramoff and was already known to be under investigation in the wide-ranging probe.
Abramoff, whom Doolittle once considered a good friend, is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to conspiracy last year and admitting defrauding Indian tribes and other clients.
The investigation has led to convictions of a former congressman, legislative aides, lobbyists and Bush administration officials, including a 10-month prison sentence imposed Tuesday on the former No. 2 official at the Interior Department.
Doolittle is the only sitting member of Congress known to be under active investigation. His ties to Abramoff including interceding on behalf of Abramoff's tribal clients and taking campaign cash from him and his clients.
Doolittle's wife, Julie, also operated an event-planning business that worked for Abramoff on about a $5,000-per-month retainer from September 2002 through February 2004. She was hired to plan a fundraiser that was canceled after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Doolittle has said he believes prosecutors are focusing on whether his wife did real work for Abramoff.