Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pombo: A Ringing Endorsement (NOT)

Today's Mercury News has this suggestion about Richard Pombo and John Doolittle: Throw the bums out!
Posted on Thu, Oct. 12, 2006

Two House members deserve defeat Nov. 7

Mercury News Editorial

Even gerrymandering can't guarantee the re-election of California Republican Congressmen Richard Pombo and John Doolittle. Many voters have had it with their money-grubbing and their party's influence-peddling. It's about time.

Pombo and Doolittle are the only two of the state's 53 members of Congress, and are among only 40 Congress members nationwide, whose re-elections are in doubt.

Doolittle, who's seeking his ninth term, has had a safe seat in a majority Republican district running from the Oregon and Nevada borders to northeastern Sacramento. The same is true with Pombo, seeking his eighth term in a Central Valley district that reaches into Morgan Hill.

But not this year. Both have been singed by their association with convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and by their own fundraising and spending practices.

The recent reverberations involving Mark Foley, the former congressman who sent explicit instant messages to male congressional pages, certainly won't help them. Not because either Pombo or Doolittle was in any way implicated, but because the scandal reminds voters that Republican leaders ignored warnings of Foley's disgraceful conduct. And, under now-indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, they condoned sleazy dealings with lobbyists and campaign donors to solidify their hold on power. Bills to curb those abuses and set higher ethical standards went nowhere in Congress this year.

Doolittle and Pombo rose to leadership positions under DeLay and have been enmeshed in the web of corporate lobbyist ties that he established.

Five years ago, Doolittle and Pombo interfered with an investigation by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. into a failed savings and loan owned by Texas businessman Charles Hurwitz, a major GOP donor. In what an FDIC spokesman called ``a seamy abuse of the legislative process,'' Doolittle and Pombo introduced sensitive documents into the Congressional Record to damage the government's case.

In a practice that Congress should ban, Pombo encourages industries that lobby his committee to pay staff junkets to places like Atlantic City. Those expenses totaled $197,000 between 2003 and 2005. More than 40 businesses and trade groups hosted a grand ``Pombo Palooza'' at the 2004 national GOP Convention.

Pombo chairs the House Resources Committee, which regulates Indian affairs. He received $7,500 in campaign donations from Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to defrauding an Indian tribe he represented, and $30,000 from clients of Abramoff. Although Pombo has consistently denied being lobbied by Abramoff, the Associated Press reported this week that in the mid-'90s, Abramoff twice billed clients for discussions he had with Pombo.

Over the past five years, Doolittle has accepted $140,000 in donations to his campaign and related funds from Abramoff, his associates and Abramoff clients, including Indian tribes, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Both Doolittle and Pombo also put relatives on campaign payrolls -- a practice that, while not illegal, should be discouraged. Pombo's brother Randall, his campaign's treasurer, has received an average of $43,000 a year since 1992. His wife, Annette, has been listed as a consultant since 2003, earning an average $48,000 a year.

Doolittle's wife, Julie, in a more blatant end-run around campaign-finance laws, has worked as a campaign consultant for her husband, charging a 15 percent commission on contributions. That has netted her more than $180,000 since 2001. Two clients were Abramoff's lobbyist firm and Abramoff's restaurant, Signatures, where he plied members of Congress with free meals.

Doolittle and Pombo embody Washington's incestuous political culture. By throwing them out, voters would signal the need for change.

© 2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


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