Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Richard Pombo: PAC-man

The San Jose Mercury News reports on Richard Pombo's status as a leading Big Oil PAC-man:
Pombo has received $1.3 million in political action committee funds, one of the largest amounts among incumbents, with agricultural and energy companies heading the donors. McNerney received $182,504 in PAC donations.

Environmental groups have targeted Pombo for pushing for offshore oil drilling and his efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act to help private landowners. Their literature calls Pombo an ``eco-thug.'' Working out of a storefront in Pleasanton, six staffers for the Defenders of the Wildlife have organized dozens of canvassers urging voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to oust him.

Eric Antebi, an organizer with the Sierra Club in San Francisco, estimated that environmental groups will spend at least $1.5 million to rally voters against Pombo.

Pombo, whose campaign signs proudly label him ``Rancher, Congressman,'' says he is representing the ranchers and farmers in California who face over-regulation. More than half the district's voters are in San Joaquin County, one of the nation's richest agricultural areas. Pombo calls his environmental opponents ``radicals.''

``They've made this a national thing, and they're coming after me,'' Pombo said at a recent appearance. ``I'm a chairman of a major committee now, and I'm a bigger target.''

But Pombo is in trouble for other reasons as well. While much of the district is still rural, more retirees and suburbanites have moved in -- even to Tracy, Pombo's home.

Real estate office worker Alice English said she usually voted Democratic but the big change this year was her husband, a Republican, would not vote for Pombo ``because of all the negative ads they're putting out.''

``We used to cancel each other's votes,'' she joked. ``Not this year.''

Bill Evans, 70, a retired Air Force bomber pilot who moved to Pleasanton four years ago, opposes the Iraq war and has helped organize veterans for McNerney, whom he calls ``a straightforward man of integrity.''

Maybe most telling was the reaction of Debbie Bennett, a Republican retiree from Danville. She voted for Bush twice but said she is ``very disappointed in the war,'' and might sit out this election.

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