Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Is Dick Pombo a Liar? You Decide.

Dick Pombo (CA-11) is the most anti-environment legislator to pass through the United States Congress in a generation. His legislative iniatitives include gutting the Endangered Special Act, proposing the sale to private interests of millions of acres of public land - including several national parks and providing unbridled access to public land and resources to timber and mining interests.

Pombo claims that his anti-environmental positions are driven by a highly developed sense of property rights, the need for American energy independence and an acute empathy for farmers and ranchers who have their land usage dictated by the federal government.

Pombo's story plays well in the rural sections of his district. His family has owned vast tracts of property in and around the city of Tracy for a century. His extended family lives on a 500 acre ranch on the outskirts of Tracy. And, Pombo uses his cowboy image to garner agricultural votes and support.

What Pombo isn't so forthcoming in sharing with his neighbors at the feed store is the source of most of his campaign funds. The Los Angeles Times isn't so reticent.
According to data compiled by the Campaign Finance Analysis Project, Pombo has, during his congressional career, collected more than $800,000 from agriculture, timber and fishing interests. The building industry has given him $205,000; oil and gas, $169,000; mining, $55,000; and casinos and gambling, $147,000.
Virtually none of these big campaign donors reside in the CA-11. But, Dick Pombo has certainly done a lot for the big corporate interests that want more access to public land and to see environmental laws relaxed or repealed.

Dick Pombo, the friend of the small rancher and famer, is also one of the chief architects of turning Tracy into a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. And, turning Tracy into a developer's paradise has been very good for the Pombo family.
During Pombo's two years as a local councilman before heading to Congress in 1992, he worked on a general plan that set the stage for Tracy's explosive growth. Today much of the farmland for sale on the town fringes is staked with the red and white signs of Pombo Real Estate, founded in the 1960s by his late uncle Ernie and carried on by relatives.
Now pretending to be one of the boys down at the 4H Club and at FFA meetings isn't lying, it just hypocracy. Running around in a cowboy hat isn't them same as being supportive of family farming, especially when you are developing plans to rezone the land those farms sit on and in the process insuring that members of your family make millions.

But, let's look at another case the Times lays out regarding Pombo.
The family lands figure prominently in Pombo lore. It was the government riding roughshod over the family's property rights, he says, that spurred him to get involved in national politics.

In 1994 he told a Senate subcommittee that he ran for Congress after the ranch was declared critical habitat for the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, stripping his land of its value and forcing his family to run the ranch "with an unwanted, unneeded, un-silent partner — the federal government."

The tale turns out to have been embroidered. Pombo's ranch is a corridor for the kit fox, the smallest fox in North America. But it is not critical habitat, which the government has never designated anywhere for the tiny fox. Pombo paid $5,137 into a regional habitat conservation plan to compensate for houses he and relatives were building on the ranch. But that was years after his congressional testimony.

Today, Pombo concedes his characterization was "mistaken" and says having kit fox habitat on his land "didn't prevent me from doing anything."
Hummm.... The intrusive federal government "stripped" Pombo's land of its value and forced itself upon Pombo as "unwanted, unneeded" partner in his business. Except, the whole story is a fabrication. It didn't happen. It allows Pombo to create a strawman - the evil Endangered Species Act - and tell first hand of the damage the act caused him and his family. A hypocritical act and an outright lie.

A few years ago, Pombo lent his expertise to a report critical of the Forest Services' handling of a fire in the Pacific Northwest. According to Pombo, four firefighters died because a fire fighting helicopter was denied access to river water because of regulations protecting fish in the river.

Again, a great story. Foolish, excessive enviromental laws caused a tragic loss of life.

Guess what? Another Pombo story that turns out to be .... untrue.
"Highly inaccurate…. The whole thing was a bunch of baloney," Jim Furnish, a former deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service who headed an investigation of the deaths, said in an interview. The probe found that although there was some confusion about whether a helicopter could draw from the river, endangered species regulations did not forbid it and most of the delay in using the chopper was unrelated. Moreover, investigators concluded the four died because of command misjudgments and because the fire crew disregarded standard safety procedures.
Dick Pombo is a tool of special interests. He has found a perfect niche from which he can work to destroy generations of conservation and enviromental progess. The money pours in from corporations who interests Pombo serves. In his district. he can wear a cowboy hat, spit and load feed bags into the pick-up, but when he goes to Washington, Dick Pombo serves the special interests that fill his campaign coffers to overflowing.

To justify his support of these major corporate interests, Dick Pombo cultivates the image of a small town rancher fighting the intrusive federal government. That image is just that, an image. Manufactured to sell to the rubes back in his district so they will send him to Washington to serve the big money interests.