Richard Pombo: An Ethics Retrospective

Tomorrow, former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) is set to [burst back]( onto the national political scene with a new bid for Congress in California.

Luckily, TPM’s archives are bursting with stories of Pombo’s ethical troubles — the very troubles that helped sink his 2006 reelection bid after seven terms in office.

Here are a few facts you should know about Pombo — who, we should note, was never charged with a crime in connection with his links to Jack Abramoff, or any other ethics scandal.

[*ed.note*: This list is by no means exhaustive.]

* Pombo was videotaped claiming that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff “never once lobbied me on anything.” The AP promptly [discovered]( in billing records that Abramoff had contacted Pombo personally twice, and his associates many more times.

* Pombo’s staff [appeared]( frequently in Team Abramoff e-mails discussing free seats at sporting and entertainment events. For example, two tickets to WWF Backlash Live went to Pombo’s press secretary in April 2000.
Pombo was an important target of Abramoff because of his seat on — and eventual chairmanship of, thanks to Tom DeLay — the House Committee on Natural Resources.

* Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in 2006 prepared an epic thirteen-count ethics [complaint]( against Pombo, for among, other charges, potentially violating “federal bribery laws by providing legislative assistance to Indian tribes in exchange for contributions to his campaign and political action committee, RICH PAC.”

* He was [criticized]( for taking a two-week RV tour of the national parks in 2003 — and billing the taxpayer for rental fees. Even though his family came along for the ride, Pombo maintained, “It was not a personal trip.”

* Also in the good-to-be-related-to-the-congressman file: Pombo paid his wife and brother $357,325 over four years from his campaign fund for fundraising, consulting, and other unspecified services. The *Los Angeles Times* [reported]( in 2005 that his impressive total put him in league with Tom DeLay.

* In 2004, he [sent]( over 100,000 fliers touting President Bush’s environmental agenda — and that of Resources committee members facing tough reelection bids. One recipient [described]( the letters, which were paid for by the government, as “veiled campaign literature.”

* After leaving Congress, Pombo, long the archenemy of the environmentalist movement, got a [gig]( with PR firm Pac/West Communications, which had worked with the congressman over the years on efforts like loosening restrictions on logging in national forests.

We should note that Pombo, who previously represented California’s 11th district, has shrewdly decided to mount his comeback bid next door, in the 19th district.

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