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CA-11: Richard Pombo Lied to His Constituents


(image from dKos diarist, immigrant punk)

Oh boy. 

Richard Pombo (R-Tracy, Calif.), U.S. House Representative for California's 11th Congressional District, was caught lying to his constituents by the Associated Press today.

Last Thursday at a forum in his hometown of Tracy with Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney, Rep. Pombo responded to questions about his connections to convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff (via Tracy Press):

“I’ve seen myself described as one of (Jack Abramoff’s) closest allies in Congress. I met the guy two or three times in my whole life — he never once lobbied me on anything, never asked me to sign a letter, to vote for or against a bill, to introduce a bill; he never once stepped foot in my office. …” [emphasis added]

Today, the Associated Press is reporting that billing records tell a different story.

AP reports: 

On more than two dozen other occasions from 1996 through 2001, Abramoff associates called or met with members of Pombo's staff, including his chief of staff, the records indicate. As the contacts picked up, Pombo voted Abramoff's way on a bill important to Abramoff's clients.


The records, covering 1996 to 2001, indicate contacts beginning in March 1996 between officials at Abramoff's then-law firm, Preston Gates, and Pombo's staff.

One focus was legislation in the Resources Committee, of which Pombo was then a junior member, to give the Marianas a nonvoting delegate to Congress. Then-Marianas Gov. Froilan Tenorio was opposed. Abramoff and his associates lobbied the Hill, including a July 29, 1996, contact with Pombo's office.

Three days later the bill was narrowly defeated in committee. Pombo voted no.

"I have great news!" Abramoff wrote to Tenorio on Aug. 1, 1996. The delegate bill "was DEFEATED at the markup which finished about an hour ago. … We were able to add four conservative Republicans to the block of Democrat opponents and defeat the bill by a vote of 13-12." [emphasis added]

The following month, Pombo was rewarded for his help.

On Sept. 10, 1996, Abramoff billed for a discussion with Pombo. Two days later he gave Pombo a $500 donation, the first of what would become $7,500 in campaign contributions. Pombo has since donated the money to charity. On Nov. 21, 1996, Abramoff reported putting in calls to Pombo and other lawmakers.

In regards to the Northern Marianas, Pombo received $7,750 from nine residents of the Marianas that were connected with the garment industry or the CNMI government on May 18, 2004.

Something important to note is that these records run through 2001, two years prior his ascendancy to the post of chairman of the House Resources Committee. The bulk of his $7,500 total donations received from Abramoff, and the tens of thousands received from Abramoff’s tribal clientele, started in early 2003, with $2,000 from Abramoff two days after he became chairman.

The House Resources Committee oversees, among many other things, environmental issues and also Indian affairs. Before becoming its chairman, Rep. Pombo never sponsored or cosponsored a single piece of legislation related to Native American affairs. In January 2006, the Contra Costa Times reported:

Until he took the helm of the House Resources Committee in early 2003, Rep. Richard Pombo showed little interest in American Indian tribes, and vice versa.

Not a single bill on Indian issues carried his name. And just one identified tribe member saw fit to write Pombo a check giving $500 in 1996, federal records show.

And after he became chairman?

As chairman, Pombo has pushed to speed up old applications for tribal recognition; drafted a change in Indian gaming law to tackle so-called "reservation shopping" and helped free tribes to develop their own energy projects.


In three years, tribes, their members and lobbyists and other gaming interests have poured more than $500,000 into Pombo's coffers, making him the third-leading beneficiary of Indian money in Congress.

Pombo took contributions from an Abramoff-affiliated tribe and then sponsored legislation to help them. From the Cape Cod Times in December 2005:

The Mashpee Wampanoag have sought federal recognition status for more than three decades. With their petition in bureaucratic limbo in 2003, and a lawsuit stalled, tribal leaders contracted with Abramoff's lobbying firm and started sending donations to Pombo.

Late last summer, the tribe stuck a deal with the government that put the tribe's petition on active consideration status and guaranteed a decision on the matter in March 2007.

Federal campaign records reveal that Tribal Council chairman Glenn Marshall, vice chairman Shawn Hendricks and four other tribe members gave $12,000 to Pombo in September 2003. A few months later, Pombo filed a bill with U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., that would have put the tribe's federal recognition petition on a fast track. Pombo also invited Marshall to testify before the committee he chairs.

Hank Shaw of the Stockton Record writes:

Pombo spokesman Brian Kennedy noted that Abramoff pleaded guilty earlier this year charges that included padding his billing records. Kennedy says the two entries are fakes.


Abramoff’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said his client is spending a great deal of time helping federal authorities sift through evidence – including billing records – “as part of his desire to make amends.”

But Lowell said he could neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the Pombo entries.

That's their defense. These are "fakes." Next, Pombo's campaign staff will blame the garment industry workers on the Marianas, channeling Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. When that fails, there's always the "Clinton card." A favorite in GOP circles.

As for lobbyist ties to Pombo, several former staffers have moved on to become lobbyists that engaged in areas that come before his committee.

Christopher D’Arcy, Legislative Director for Pombo from 1993 until 1997 and Staff Director from 1997 until 2003, has been with Clark & Weinstock since the summer of 2004.

He specializes in the areas of agriculture, food safety and marketing, bioterrorism, water, power and resources issues.

Michael J. Hardiman Jr., Policy and Communications Director from 1993 until 1999, founded Hardiman Consulting that specializes in land use and environmental issues and worked as a lobbyist for the American Land Rights Association. He also helped write and edit This Is Our Land, a book Pombo co-authored with Joseph Farah, founder of WorldNetDaily. (Farah recently wrote a piece that said the Republicans were “unworthy” of leading this nation.)

Paul Kavinoky, Senior Legislative Assistant and Legislative Director from 1995 until 1999, is the managing director of public law and policy strategies at the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal that deals with environmental and energy law whose clients include pesticide manufacturers, Indian tribes and major agribusiness companies.

W. Dennis Stephens, a former aide to Pombo in 1993, is currently a lobbyist for Abramoff’s former firm, Preston Gates. He also handled Abramoff’s accounts for CNMI. Land of Enchantment provided some Lexis-Nexis articles on DailyKos this past June regarding Stephens.

A recent report released [PDF] by the Government Reform Committee highlighted a March 2001 e-mail conversation (Abramoff e-mail numbered GTG-R000694; read the e-mails here) where Abramoff told Stephens he had a “great meeting” with Karl Rove. Abramoff also wrote: “In any event, I saw [former Assistant Deputy Interior Secretary for President Reagan, Steve] Griles afterwards at a reception and reiterated how great this would be. He said that as soon as he is in, he is going to look into getting you there. I think we are in position, but we need to keep at it.” [links added]

Griles became Deputy Secretary of the Interior for the current administration in July 2001 under DOI Secretary Gale Norton. He left his post in January of 2005.

For the last six weeks, I have been working on the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund's "Pombo In Their Pocket" independent-expenditure campaign aimed at unseating Rep. Richard Pombo (CA-11) from office this November. He was named "One of the Thirteen Most Corrupt Members of Congress" by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) for his ties to big oil, development industry and his ties to Jack Abramoff and his clients. (Full PDF file can be accessed here.) He has also been branded public enemy #1 on environmental and conservation issues.

Pombo recently complained to the Manteca Bulletin about the Defenders and our efforts to shine a light on his legislative atrocities. From my post at Say No To Pombo:

In a fluff piece in today's Manteca Bulletin, Rep. Pombo, in his own words, openly complained about the grassroots effort aimed at unseating him this November. After fourteen years in the U.S. House, it turns out Rep. Pombo can't stand the heat. Like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, Pombo counts the unseen forces ranging against him.

The group has a full-time office in Pleasanton with a full-time staff, Pombo said. They have drawn their activist workers from personal website blogs in the Bay area. They send them into the neighborhoods campaigning against him in his congressional district, he said.

“It’s a full-blown campaign,” he pointed out. “I don’t think there has ever been anything to this extent before.”

We have held two major Defeat Pombo Days of Action, drawing almost 300 volunteers combined, to canvass voters in California's beautiful 11th CD, including my hometown of Danville.

So far, the NRCC has spent nearly $500,000 on the race, conducting two internal polls and now a third one.

They haven't released their results.

However, the Defenders released a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner that showed McNerney ahead 48 to Pombo's 46 with only 6 undecided, despite a barrage of attack ads against McNerney during that same time in late September. 

It was recently reported that the DCCC is doing some polling in the district to see if they wanted to throw some money McNerney's way.

For me, working to clean up Congress of one of its most corrupt members has entailed long hours, some sleepless nights, an unhealthy diet and high caffeine-intake. However, it has been well worth it. We are a staff of nine supported by incredible volunteers and activists. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens… all tied together by a common purpose: Cleaning up Congress.

This — is people-powered, grassroots activism at its finest. 

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