Friday, October 20, 2006

Richard Pombo: "The Diseased Heart...of Washington Politics"

Today's Sacramento Bee endorses Jerry McNerney:
Editorial: McNerney for Congress
Pombo personifies all that ails Washington

Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, October 20, 2006

During his 14 years in the House of Representatives, Richard Pombo has represented the 11th Congressional District, which stretches from San Joaquin County to Santa Clara County. Along the way he has amassed a dubious list of financial supporters -- development interests, Indian gaming tribes, oil companies, foreign mining concerns and some of the most corrupt people in Washington, D.C. To earn that support, Pombo has embraced potentially disastrous environmental policies; suggested selling off national parks; tried to engineer giveaways of natural resources; and embraced drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off both coasts. The Resources Committee he chairs has made a few favored gaming tribes extraordinarily wealthy.

All of these interests have returned his support in the form of contributions. Various lists put contributions to Pombo at $7.3 million during his congressional career -- including mountains of money raised at lavish events hosted by lobbyists and those who have business with his committee. He has taken money from admitted political fixer Jack Abramoff, and he was a protégé of disgraced House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. No wonder one watchdog group listed Pombo among Washington's 20 most corrupt representatives.

This record speaks for itself -- and loudly enough that voters should get the message and return Pombo to private life.

In his place, they should elect Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

McNerney is a political neophyte, a Ph.D. engineer who attended West Point, once worked at Sandia National Laboratories and now owns a wind power company. He wants to develop alternative energy to create power and jobs. Wonkish and facing a charisma deficit, he has so far eschewed big corporate contributions -- meaning he will be thoroughly outspent.

This, like any election with an incumbent, is a referendum. While Pombo has been effective in a few high-profile issues -- such as helping to broker a settlement on rewatering the San Joaquin River -- he has worked even harder for a host of special interests. He is at the diseased heart of the quid-pro-quo process that defines Washington politics today. To send him back to the Capitol endorses a system we can no longer tolerate.

And while his strident environmental views have caused us concern in the past, the idea he floated this past term about selling off parks was over the top. It's just one of many such ideas.

McNerney's more practical approach contrasts admirably. Pombo got headlines by trying to gut the Endangered Species Act, but his plan went nowhere. McNerney suggests negotiating changes to the act while preserving its goals.

If you prefer the politics of extremes; if you're OK with selling off national parks; if backroom deal-making and tainted money suit you; if you embrace out-of-balance budgets and the concentration of wealth -- Pombo's your man. But he is no longer representing the true interests of his district, state or nation. That's ample reason for voters to send Jerry McNerney to Congress.


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