WASHINGTON – A day after stepping down from a House committee amid news that his home was searched by the FBI, Rep. John Doolittle on Friday proclaimed his innocence and vowed to stay in Congress and seek re-election.
The California Republican, a nine-term incumbent under scrutiny in the Jack Abramoff congressional corruption scandal, also said he will seek the House Ethics Committee's permission to establish a legal fund to raise money for his defense. Doolittle agreed Thursday to resign his coveted spot on the House Appropriations Committee temporarily.
"I have no intention of resigning from Congress and I have every intention of running for re-election again," Doolittle told reporters from his district in a conference call.
"If there is anything that we should have learned from the Duke Lacrosse case, it is that the destruction of the reputations of innocent people can occur when the government, the press and the public jump to unfounded conclusions," he added.
Doolittle said he believes the April 13 FBI raid on his house in Oakton, Va., was unnecessary. Agents confiscated materials related to a fundraising business run by his wife, Julie, called Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc.
Sierra Dominion has worked for Abramoff's former lobbying firm, Doolittle's campaigns and a nonprofit group called the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council created by a former aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Doolittle's aides declined to name other clients.
Doolittle said his wife was home alone when the search was done, and agents hauled off her three computers and two big filing cabinets. He said Julie Doolittle has cooperated voluntarily with government requests for information, including a subpoena in 2004.
"So out of the clear blue to have this happen was quite shocking," Doolittle said. Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined comment.
Doolittle came close to losing his House seat last year in a campaign focused on his ties to Abramoff and his wife's fundraising for his campaigns.
Under House rules, a legal defense fund would let Doolittle accept donations of $5,000 per year from individuals rather than the $2,300-per-campaign limit that applies to congressional committees.
Doolittle has ties to Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy, mail fraud and other charges, admitting to bilking his Indian tribe clients.