Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pombo's Chief of Staff - Steven Ding

Today's Contra Costa Times breaks a story concerning Representative Dick Pombo's (CA-11) chief of staff, Steven Ding. Mr. Ding is more than just Dick Pombo's right hand man. Ding is also the chief of staff of Pombo's House Resource Committe. But, wait, there's more, Ding is also a political consultant who runs a California based political action committee that supports candidates that Dick Pombo likes.

"Despite being chief of staff to the Washington-based Resources Committee, and being paid more than $150,000 a year from the committee's budget, Ding works primarily from California and commutes to Capitol Hill at taxpayers' expense when the committee is in session.

Congressional observers called the situation unusual, a waste of public money and a questionable interpretation of house rules. Pombo and Ding insist the travel expenses, which include lodging and meals in Washington, are legitimate.

House rules on travel and spending prohibit using a member's district budget for committee expenses. They also state that "living expenses and commuting expenses are not reimbursable when they are incurred at the staff member's duty station."

Ding has a full time job in Washington as the chief of staff of a major congressional committee. His compensation for that job is $150,000 a year.

"In addition to his committee post, Ding is also listed in records as chief of the congressman's personal staff, a position for which Pombo pays him $100 a month from his district office budget. The listing allows Ding to bill taxpayers for his frequent travel between Washington and California.

Even though he describes Ding as his chief of staff who controls all aspects of both his personal and committee operations, Pombo pays another staff member more than $120,000 a year from his district budget as deputy chief of staff. The two jobs don't overlap, Pombo said."

Ding get $150,000 per year for his full time job in WASHINGTON, DC. But, he is also Pombo's chief of staff, although another individual is employed in that function at the taxpayers expense.

Since Ding is on Pombo's California staff, his travel and expenses in WASHINGTON, DC, where his $150,000 a year job is located, are paid for by the American taxpayer.

"Ding's admission, in response to a Times investigation of his activities, raises questions about his outside work and a special arrangement under which Pombo has allowed him to spend more than $87,000 in taxpayer money on travel, meals and lodging during the past three years."

While living in California and working in WASHINGTON, DC, Ding has had a substantial income from political consulting. Consulting directly tied to his position with Pombo and the Resource Committee.

"...IRS documents show Ding is the director of a Sacramento-based federal political action committee, WestPac, that supports conservative congressional candidates and causes in Western states.Noble said Ding's outside work was troubling, in part, because many of Ding's payments come from people who receive political work from Pombo. In another instance, payments came from a candidate to whom Pombo gave money. That could lead to the impression that Ding is being compensated for steering work or money to them, rather than providing consulting services, Noble said.

In 2000, 2002 and 2003, Ding received fees from a state legislative candidate who had earlier received contributions from a state political action committee that Pombo controlled. According to state documents, Ding was in charge of that political action committee's expenditures, and it raised money from donors who also routinely gave to Pombo's federal re-election account."

In case you're having trouble keeping up with all of Mr. Ding's sources of income, the Times sums it up here:

"Documents show that Ding received $114,240 in outside income between 2000 and 2004, the last year for which records are available. (Disclosures for 2005 are due in May).

All the sources of that income are political campaigns and consultants with ties to Pombo.

Ding said Friday he would not have been able to continue that work after 2003 if he had moved to Washington when Pombo appointed him Resources Committee chief of staff.

Since then, records show he spent more than $87,000 from Pombo's district budget on travel, lodging and meals from January 2003 to July 2005. During that same period, he received more than $57,000 in consulting fees, according to documents.

Also during that time, Ding received nearly all his congressional salary - $417,933 - from the budget of the Washington-based Resources Committee."

Representative Pombo is completely aware of his chief of staff's situation. He apparently sees no conflict in Ding's consultancy, nor does he think that stiffing the taxpayers for both Ding's expenses and a second chief of staff to do Ding's work is out of line.

The Republican congress of corruption isn't just a few bad apple congressmen and some shady lobbyists. It is a disease that infects every part of Congress and Washington itself.