31 Aug 2005

Pombo Country

There was quite a long article on Pombo in the East Bay Express a couple of days ago, going through in some detail the career of our representative. Jessica even found a copy at her local coffee shop and brought it home. His picture covers the whole front page.
A closer look at Pombo's career reveals a long-standing pattern of using the power of government in ways that would directly or indirectly benefit his family. The latest case involves the congressman's unwavering support for two new freeways that would link the Central Valley and East Bay in new locations.
Earlier this month, Pombo obtained $21.6 million in federal funds to study the projects, neither of which addresses the most pressing transportation issue in the Tracy area. One of the proposed freeways is so seemingly impractical that it has been called “Pombo's Folly” because of the time it would take to drive, the tens of billions of dollars it would cost to build, and the environmental havoc it would wreak.
What's more, a recent review of public records shows that Pombo and his family could profit handsomely from the highway proposals, even if no freeways are ever built. The Pombo clan owns more than 1,500 acres of land near the two new freeways and the value of its property will likely skyrocket because of the congressman's actions—and may already have.
Of considerable interest to those of us who have to sit in the 580/205 traffic every day on our way home from work and are aware that a huge pork barrel highway bill just passed, should take a look at this:
Based on the overwhelming support for it, the widening of 205 from four lanes to six is easily the single most important transportation issue in the Tracy area. The project also is vital to tens of thousands of East Bay drivers who get caught up in the bottleneck every Friday and Sunday on their way to and from the mountains. Yet Pombo obtained no federal money for the project, and instead used his political capital on his own freeway projects, neither of which has nearly as much support.
There is also considerable mention of his ties to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff:
Earlier this year, Pombo solidified his relationship with the Republican majority leader to whom he owes his chairmanship. In January, Pombo and fellow Central Valley Republican John Doolittle worked behind the scenes with other House Republican leaders to alter House Ethics Committee rules in order to protect DeLay from further investigation by the Ethics Committee, which already had admonished him. DeLay has been under scrutiny for receiving gifts and travel from Jack Abramoff, a former powerhouse Washington lobbyist for Native American tribes. Abramoff, who was indicted by a Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury on fraud charges in early August, also has donated $7,000 to Pombo's political action committee—RICH PAC.
And as we have previously posted about, his paying his family almost a half million dollars from campaign contributions:
Federal campaign finance statements reveal that both his wife, Annette, and his youngest brother, Randall, have collected nearly $500,000 in total from Pombo's campaign accounts since the beginning of 2001. The congressman has paid his wife $186,704 and Randall $311,489 in that time. Pombo reported that about one-fifth of the total was reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. The balance was for “bookkeeping,” “fund-raising,” “consulting,” and “clerical” work.
Overall, the article is very in-depth and is a great overview of why exactly we feel it is so important to challenge him and to show people that there is a better way. Your representative does not have to view this office as a way to line his pockets. This office can be an accessible, dynamic, involving post that gives you a voice into your federal government.
I think the most telling sentence in the whole thing was this one:
Pombo spokesman Brian Kennedy originally pledged to schedule an interview with the congressman for this story, but then neither he, Pombo, nor Pombo's staff responded to any of more than a half-dozen subsequent phone and e-mail requests.
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