Richard Pombo

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Richard Pombo served the 11th Congressional district of California from 1993 to 2007

Richard William Pombo was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007, representing the 11th District of California. He was defeated in the 2006 congressional elections by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.).

In February 2007, Pombo joined the public relations firm Pac/West Communications as a "senior partner." The firm had previously supported Pombo's efforts to weaken Endangered Species Act protections and holds a $3 million contract from the Alaska state government, "to coordinate a campaign for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration," which Pombo has supported. [1]

Bio

Background

Pombo was born January 8, 1961 in Tracy, California, just outside Stockton. Pombo served as a Councilmember for the City of Tracy from 1990-1992.

In 1992 he was elected to Congress from a newly created district. Two years later, Pombo was a signatory participant in the Contract with America.

2006 elections

On January 23, 2006, Pete McCloskey announced at a press conference in Lodi, California, that he will return to the political arena by running against Pombo in the Republican Party's Primary election for California's 11th Congressional district.

Pombo a six-term lawmaker who heads the House Resources Committee, is considered one of the key lawmakers behind efforts to revise McCloskey's original 1973 Endangered Species Act, an attempt the League of Conservation Voters labled "a devoloper's dream." [2]

Pombo was challenged by Democrat Jerry McNerney, a wind energy consultant and engineer, in the general election.[3] McNerney prevailed and took control of the seat for the 110th Congress.

Meet the Cash Constituents

Links to more campaign contribution information for Richard Pombo
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Records and Controversies

Iraq War

For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

Pombo voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.[1]

Industry ties and campaign contributions

Richard Pombo has received over $100,000 from oil and gas companies from 2002-2005.[4] Pombo helped push $8.5 billion in subsidies to the energy industry in the recently passed energy bill.[5] Pombo is also trying to open up the waters off of coastal states to drilling and exploration despite the bipartisan protests coming from those states.[6]

Pombo received $24,159 from the mining industry[7], $33,750 from the timber and forestry products industry[8], and $43,000 from developers and the construction industry in 2004[9]. He supported the Healthy Forests Initiative that opened 20 million acres of forest to logging while making it much harder for environmentalists to oppose logging.[10] Pombo has also proposed selling 15 national parks to residential and commercial developers.[11] Pombo also blocked a vote on an amendment to end taxpayer subsidies, and save tens of millions of dollars in the process, for logging companies operating in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.[12] Pombo is currently pushing for the largest land sale in 100 years with up to 5.7 million acres going for sale to mining interests.[13]

Pombo has received $13,000 from Chevron from 2003-2005. Chevron was the key competitor of a Chinese firm to purchase Unocal in mid-2005 and Pombo was a key ally of Chevron during the fight over who would purchase the oil and gas giant.[14] Pombo let Chevron write a letter from him to Treasury Secretary John Snow in support of Chevron's bid and denouncing the Chinese attempted takeover. (Pierce and Newmyer. "A War Over Oil; Chevron Asks Congress to Scrutinize Chinese Firm's Unocal Bid." Roll Call; June, 29 2005.)

Shinnecock Tribe campaign contribution scandal

Days before a hearing in the House Resources Committee, which Pombo chairs, Pombo attended a fundraiser for Rich PAC, his personal political action committee. The $5,000 a plate fundraiser was hosted by a group funding the Shinnecock Tribe. The committee hearing was specifically addressing land claims involving the tribe. [15]

Personal gain

Pombo asked the Department of the Interior to suspend guidelines for wind-power farms that protect endangered species of birds from being killed in the turbines.[16] Pombo did not disclose that his parents receive payments for the wind power turbines on their ranch – in 2001 they received $125,000 in royalties.[17]

In 2004, Pombo paid his family members more money out of his political action committee than his opponent spent on his entire campaign. Pombo paid his wife $85,275 and his brother $272,050 for services ranging from bookkeeping, fundraising, consulting, and unspecified services.[18] Pombo's wife and brother received a total of $357,325 from his political fund over the last four years for the aforementioned duties.

Pombo has supported the construction of two freeways in his district that run through land that he and his family own. Pombo has obtained $21.6 million in federal taxpayer dollars to study the freeway projects. Critics claim that neither freeway project address the needs of the community, although it certainly would increase the property value of land owned by Pombo and his family.[19]

Pombo and Hurwitz

On January 8, 2006 the LA Times reported, "Reps. John T. Doolittle and Richard W. Pombo joined forces with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to oppose an investigation by federal banking regulators into the affairs of Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz, documents recently obtained by The Times show" [20]. Furthermore, "When the FDIC persisted, Doolittle and Pombo — both considered proteges of DeLay — used their power as members of the House Committee on Resources to subpoena the agency's confidential records on the case, including details of the evidence FDIC investigators had compiled on Hurwitz" [21]. Consequently, "the investigation was ultimately dropped" [22].

The Times explained "In key aspects, the Hurwitz case follows the pattern of the Abramoff scandal: members of Congress using their offices to do favors for a politically well-connected individual who, in turn, supplies them with campaign funds. Although Washington politicians frequently try to help important constituents and contributors, it is unusual for members of Congress to take direct steps to stymie an ongoing investigation by an agency such as the FDIC" [23]. The article concluded, "in the Hurwitz case, Doolittle and Pombo were in a position to pressure the FDIC and did so. Pombo received a modest campaign contribution. In another case, Pombo helped one of Abramoff's clients, the Mashpee Indians in Massachusetts, gain official recognition as a tribe; the congressman received contributions from the lobbyist and the tribe in that instance" [24].

Jack Abramoff connections

When the Jack Abramoff scandal broke, Pombo denied that Abramoff had ever lobbied him, asked him to do a favor, or sign a letter (Watch him do it here). Abramoff's billing statements, however, contradict this statement. One explicitly charges a client, the Northern Marianas Islands, for lobbying Pombo to sign a letter. [25]

Abramoff campaign contributions

"Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff or Indian tribes he once represented donated tens of thousands of dollars to members of Congress from California, and some returned the money or will donate it to charity," the Associated Press's Michael R. Blood reported on January 5, 2006.

"The California list was headed by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, whose political committees received $54,500 from Abramoff or the tribes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that analyzed political contributions from 1999 to 2005. The largest donation to Pombo, $10,000, came from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe," Blood wrote.

Jack Abramoff and RICH PAC

Congressman Pombo (and his fundraising committee RICH PAC) are among a dozen leaders in the House of Representatives reportedly under investigation as part of the corruption and influence pedalling scandal centered around millionaire lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Fundraisers organized by Indian gaming interests and tied to the 2005 MLB All-Star Game are among those activities under scrutiny.[26]

Jack Abramoff was among the top ten donors to Pombo's RICH Political Action Committee [27]. Several of Pombo's top five donors are political influence brokers from Detroit, Michigan who mingled gambling with major league baseball when they hosted several $5,000 per person fundraisers for Pombo in their owners box at Comerica Park during the 2005 MLB All-Star Game. As it is, the Ilitch family, owners of the MLB Detroit Tigers and Detroit's MotorCity Casino, are also financial backers of various Indian Tribes including one (Shinnecock Indians) seeking to build an Indian casino in the Hamptons, Long Island, New York and tribal disputes were before the House Resources Committee chaired by Pombo [28].

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) released a report January 2006 entitled, Beyond Delay, the 13 most corrupt Members of Congress [29] which lists Congressman Pombo [30] among the ten Members of the House included in the report.

Private property and the environment

Pombo was called "a virulently anti-environmental congressman" by the St. Petersburg Times (10/26/05). Among other things, Pombo supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as legislation to sell roughly a quarter of the land managed by the National Park Service[31].

Pombo is a member and former Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, a group of conservative western Represenatives that "are dedicated to the principles of multiple use, private property, limited government, and local decision making." [32] Pombo is also a Co-Chair of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT). This team's goal is to find alternative energy solutions, including opening the [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] to drilling.

Many of Pombo's attacks on environmental regulation are presented under the guise of private property rights and he is active in the property rights/Wise Use Movement. His interest in property rights was spurred by the Southern Pacific Railroad's abandonment of the Altamont Pass route through Tracy, California. Richard Pombo owned land adjacent to the abandoned railroad line, and Pombo argued that the abandoned easement should legally revert to the adjacent property owners (such as himself) rather than to the local park district. He argued that as the easement was granted based on a promise that the land would be used for railroad purposes only, that the easements ended entirely when they were abandoned. Pombo's case resulted in Congress passing the Rails to Trails Act.

Tied in with his interpretation of property rights is a strong dislike of the Endangered Species Act. The L.A. Times described Pombo as "a tax-cutting, anti-abortion, anti-gun-control conservative," but noted that it "is the 33-year-old species law [ESA] that has been his political obsession. He has argued that it puts "endangered flies, beetles, rats and shellfish" before people. He has exaggerated the law's impact on his own land."[33]

Pombo was a co-founder of the San Joaquin County Citizen's Land Alliance. This organization was a group of farmers and other landowners who advocate private property rights and oppose government encroachment on these rights. He wrote a book with Joseph Farah about private property issues, entitled This Land Is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property. Farah is currently founder of WorldNetDaily and headed the Western Journalism Center linked to the Arkansas Project.

RV trip

In 2003, Pombo (R-CA) rented an RV and, with his family, went on a tour of national parks that cost taxpayers $4,935. Pombo claims that the trip was an official business trip because, as House Resources Chairman, he oversees all national parks. Pombo insists that there was no additional charge for him taking his family with him. House rules prohibit using government funds for personal travel, but allow family members to accompany congressmen on official trips. Pombo had previously written about the trip on his committee's website: "This August, my family and I rented an RV and set out to explore the West. We spent two weeks on vacation, stopping along the way to enjoy the splendor of many of our national parks."[34]

Pombo defended that RV trip by saying that he was visiting national parks and meeting with park directors as a part of his job. The Sacramento Bee reports that some park directors have no recollection of these meetings. Pombo's Resources committee staff also accepts trips from corporate interests that have business before the committee, such as the American Gas Association and British Petroleum.[35]

Travel and tax law violations

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group, charged that "Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, might have violated tax laws in connection with two trips to New Zealand and Japan that cost more the $23,000 ... [which were] paid for by the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a tax-exempt private foundation set up to oppose environmental and animal rights groups," the Contra Costa Times reported October 19, 2005.

"The two Pombo trips in question took place in 2000 and in 2002. At the time, Pombo was the honorary chairman of an arm of a foundation called the Sustainable Use Parliamentarians Union.

"As the chairman, Pombo said he was invited to speak at conferences in New Zealand and Japan about sustainable use of natural resources. The Japan speech was given at the International Whaling Conference."

Bob Williams, a project director at the Center, "said that in addition to potential tax law violation, the trips raise questions about Pombo's association with the foundation, which, despite its name, opposes restrictions for environmental protection or animal welfare laws."

Contributions from VECO Corp.

Through July 31, 2006, Pombo received $18,000 from VECO Corp., an Alaskan oil services firm. In 2006, the FBI began investigating the firm for possibly strong-arming Alaskan legislators during a debate over state taxes on the oil industry. In the days following the announcement of the investigation on September 1, 2006, Washington GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who had also accepted contributions from VECO, returned the funds. Pombo, however, refused to do so. His spokesman, Carl Fogliani, stated, "We've got thousands of contributors...If a problem arises with one of them, we have a policy to give the money to charity...But we don't know enough at this point to make any decision." [36]

Other controversies

  • Richard Pombo used the House Committee on Resources to send out partisan mailings in support of George W. Bush during the final months of the 2004 election campaign seemingly violating his franking privileges. [37] Since this incident House Committee franking expenditures have been capped at $5,000.[38]
  • Pombo was investigated by the House Committee on House Administration for allowing his staff to take paid leave to work on the 2004 campaign. The staffers travel expenses were reimbursed by federal taxpayer dollars.[39]
  • Pombo's office has attempted to modify his Wikipedia article at least five times over several months in 2005-2006 to remove controversial material, including information about his ties to Abramoff.[40]

Affiliations

Pombo serves on the advisory board of National Wilderness Institute, an organization that claims to be the "voice of reason on the enviornment." NWI is dedicated to weakening the Endangered Species Act and other environmental protections. [41] Pombo participated in NWI's May 1998 press conference in conjunction with the release of "The People vs. Carol Browner", written by Bonner Cohen, accusing the EPA of junk science.[42] Pombo has introduced several pieces of legislation in the House meant to undermine the ESA.

Committees and Affiliations

Committees in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

Coalitions and Caucuses

  • Former Chair, Congressional Western Caucus
  • Policy Committee
  • Co Chair, House Energy Action Team
  • Co Chair, House Portuguese American Caucus
  • Co Chair, Task Force on Affordable Natural Gas

Boards and other Affiliations

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on Richard Pombo. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

Articles and Resources

Resources

Local blogs and discussion sites

Articles

Reports

SourceWatch Resources

Contact

DC Office:
2411 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-1947
Fax: 202-226-0861
Email: rpombo AT mail.house.gov
Web Email
Website

District Office - San Ramon:
3000 Executive Parkway, Suite 216
San Ramon, CA 94583
Phone: 925-866-7040
Fax: 925-866-7064

District Office - Stockton:
2495 West March Lane, Suite 104
Stockton, CA 95207
Phone: 209-951-3091
Fax: 209-951-1910

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