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Howie Klein’s Blue America: Pounding Pombo


From the first tiny sample of votes counted by THE MISSOULIAN on Tuesday night, it was obvious that Jon Tester was the overwhelming choice of Democrats in Montana and that the senate race in that state was not going to be close. The first raw votes I looked at showed Tester with more votes than the other 8 candidates– Democrats and Republicans– combined. I like seeing a DLC hack sliced and diced as much as anyone, but there were other important races just getting going while the Tester campaign was unpopping the champagne.

My second BLUE AMERICA post (as well as my last before Tuesday’s 8-state primary) was about why primaries are crucial if we are to have any hope at all of holding our wayward representatives responsible for their job performance once they get into office and if we are going to pick candidates who represent our interests and not the interests of careerist politicians in Washington who blithely, arrogantly ignore consumers, workers, constituents to cater to the whims of their coporate benefactors (bribers).

And who did I pick as the example of crucialness? "The most important primary on June 6 is in northern California when Democrats have to decide who to pick to take on one of the dozen worst Republicans in Congress, Richard Pombo, the man who would like nothing better than to sell the national parks in order to give bigger tax cuts to the wealthy business interests who have underwritten his political (and financial) rise. The primary in a classic case pitting an independent-minded grassroots progressive against an Inside-the-Beltway shill who Rahm Emanuel and his clique are attempting to impose on the district. Jerry McNerney (above) is wearing the white hat here and Steve Filson is the Establishment puppet."

And on Tuesday night, right out of the shoot, the voters in CA-11 told Rahm Emanuel, Ellen Tauscher and the Inside the Beltway power structure where they could shove their puppet candidate who they tried imposing on the district– and broke Party rules to support. Auguring well for November, Jerry and all the anti-Pombo candidates drew 52,086 primary votes; Pombo got 29,030.

It would have been incredible to see Marcy Winograd pull off an even less plausible upset and knock out entrenched, well-financed incumbent– the self described "best Republican in the Democratic Party," Jane Harman. But that was a real stretch. I’m really proud that so many of us believed in her and helped her try. She came closer than any political pros thought she could and shot a warning over the bows of the men and women who run in Democratic districts as Democrats and then get back to DC and forget who they’re supposed to be representing.

In fact, in a special edition of BLUE AMERICA this Tuesday I’m going to introduce you to another courageous and progressive grassroots activist who is taking on another Democrat who revels in joining the GOP for votes– but only on the most important issues, like Iraq and bankruptcy.

No doubt by now you’ve read why Jon Tester’s victory over John Morrison was so important in the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and, ultimately, for our nation. Jerry McNerney’s win in the San Joaquin Valley and the East Bay was no less significant. In the end McNerney scored a healthy 52.6% in the 3 man race. A coprorate-oriented DCCC-hack managed to grab 28.5% (all those donations to the DCCC that real Democrats think go to fight Republicans… what a waste! Never, never give a dime to the DCCC or the DSCC). The rest of the votes, 18.9% went to another excellent progressive candidate, Steve Thomas. In other words, the clueless Washington Insiders managed to waste a ton of money and energy and goodwill, while losing over 70% of the vote to real Democrats.

Jerry had no money. But beacuse of his strong progressive message, he did have grassroots support and netroots support– enough to run a winning campaign against all the DCCC could through against him. And remember, they were successful in doing the same thing to Christine Cegelis that they tried doing to Jerry. His grassroots team and dedicated supporters put together an on the ground strategy that DCCC money can’t buy. (Republican money can though– as Busby found out while she watched helplessly as the National GOP dumped over $10 million dollars into an unprecedented media blitz and smear campaign against her.)

But the primary was the easy part! Now Jerry and his team will have to face the well-greased Pombo machine– one of the dirtiest, most unscrupulous– and well-healed– political thrashing machines in the country. This isn’t a game for Pombo. He and his family have become fabulously wealthy while he has risen in the ranks of the Republican caucus. For Pombo ideology is a means to an end and the end is his big fat bugling purse (yes, that’s why Adam did the photo like that).

As for Jerry, he has to watch and see what strings DCCC help will be tied in. Will they insist on the loser consultants they use to tame and homogenize populists? He’ll need their financial assistance and the drip, drip, drip of temptation will be hard to resist. It will be a lot less hard to resist if the grassroots steps up to the plate. Recent polls show that Jerry is leading Pombo. But Pombo hasn’t even started yet. His smear tactics are legend and he’s got Karl Rove desperate to keep him in Congress and in the chair of the House Resources Committee. The Republican ex-congressman who ran against Pombo in the primary laid out a great case for why the campaign to retire him was one of the most important races in America; he was right a week ago and is just as right now:

Pombo has been named by non-partisan watchdog groups as:

"One of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress"-COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON (CREW)

"One of the first six inductees to the Congressional Hall of Shame" – PUBLIC CITIZEN

Richard Pombo is among the top recipients of money from admitted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. (Source: Time)

Pombo owes his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee to indicted former majority leader Tom DeLay. Pombo, who votes in lockstep with DeLay 92% of the time, actively tried to change House Ethics Rules to protect DeLay (House Resolution 5) and donated thousands of dollars to the DeLay legal defense fund.Pombo used his official powers to protect a large donor, Charles Hurwitz, thwarting a Federal investigation in what federal regulators called, "a seamy abuse of the legislative process." (Source: LA Times 1/8/06)

At a time when the average yearly income in San Joaquin County is $20,682, Pombo has funneled over half-a-million dollars in campaign funds to his wife and brother. As Chairman of the House Resources Committee (which oversees Native American affairs), Pombo has received over $500,000 in donations from Indian tribes, many with ties to Abramoff.

He has joined DeLay in voting to absolve the manufacturers of the toxic gasoline additive MTBE from any responsibility for cleaning up an estimated $20 billion worth of polluted water in Northern California — water that our entire state needs for agriculture and economic growth.

Pombo, a member of the congressional leadership, has helped move us from budget surpluses in 2000 to trillion-dollar deficits.

Pombo, who never served in the military, claims to support our troops but has repeatedly voted against VA and health care benefits for returning veterans, including prosthesis research for amputees (House Resolutions 1815, 2528, 1268, 27, HconRes 95 and HJRes 107).

Though his district has higher than national average gas prices, Pombo supported giving $8.6 billion in tax subsidies to oil and gas companies (House Resolution 6). It’s no surprise that Pombo’s largest political donations come from these same companies.

Between now and November, Jerry, like Tester and other grassroots progressives with strong, unadulterated messages, need to show somnolent voters why they are different from the Pombos and DeLays — and different from the Rahm Emanuels and William Jeffersons as well. It costs money to get a message out and Republicans elected officials who have helped make millions and millions of dollars for a small handful at the public expense now have that small handful who will do anything to keep the gravy train flowing. So if you’ve never tried it before, maybe this is a good time to take a look at ACT BLUE and make a personal committment for whatever you can afford. If you can afford $5, that is cool. If you can afford more, that’s cool too. We aren’t the greed-obsessed multimillionaires Bush’s tax cuts have made richer and richer… but there are a lot more of us than there are of them. We can still turn this thing around (oh, that’s a song).

And one more thing, today we’re not asking you to give Steve McNerney or any other candidates on the ACT BLUE Page money for nothing. Nope, if you’re up for the walk of life, I have a nice fresh box of CDs, a brand new greatest hits collection from one of the biggest-selling bands of the 80s. And if you don’t know who they are from the hints in the last 2 sentences… well, just give because you love America and love democracy. First 20 McNerney donors get the CD… and the next 20 get something else.

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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.