Chuck Todd of The Hotline said, "Pombo's acting as if he's worried." He was refering to the Republican primary against Pete McCloskey. He added that if McCloskey gets 40%, it can be a sign of a national tide. (Not unlike the Busby/Bilbray.)
Continued below the fold, together with a case study of a small group of Pombo donors. Cross posted to ePluribusMedia
On the prospects for November, the Contra Costa Times, one of CA-11's in-district papers, reported the following last Tuesday, May 23rd:
The Cook Political Report shifted Pombo last week from a "likely GOP" to a more competitive "leans GOP" rating. The National Journal's Hotline recently bumped Pombo from No. 48 to No. 34 on its House competitiveness list.
So, how is the McCloskey-Pombo primary race polling? Couldn't find anything in a quick google-search. Only found the Defenders of Wildlife poll, which shows Pombo behind either major Democratic challenger (pilot/veteran Steve Filson or wind-power engineer Jerry McNerney). But no mention of McCloskey. Contra Costa Times goes on:
Defenders refused to release the poll script, however, which would reveal the wording and order of the questions. And given the poll's extraordinary findings -- two largely unknown candidates beating a seven-term incumbent -- many doubt the poll's accuracy.
"I trust the pollster," [The Hotline's Chuck] Todd said of Washington-based Greenberg Research, which conducted the survey for Defenders of Wildlife. "And we haven't seen the other side release any polling. If they had good numbers, they would share."
Neither Carl Fogliani, Pombo's campaign manager, nor California Target Book author and GOP consultant Allan Hoffenblum see much reason for concern.
"This is about the publicity and the money coming into the district from Pombo's opponents and wishful thinking about a Democratic landslide," Hoffenblum said. "They are just salivating over this idea back there in Washington."
Meanwhile, Pombo's raising a ton of money, which is often pointed to as an indicator of his eventual success. His first run, in 1992, he had a total of $216,414 in contributions. Times have changed: the article reports that a single evening's fundraiser with Dick Cheney brought in "over $200k".
Pombo first ran on the challenger's claim that Washington insiders were not good for the nation, and that there should be term limits. He's already outstayed his pledged limit of six terms, as he's now running for his 8th time. And shows no interest in giving up the power he apparently relishes any time soon. Looking at his money sources, he's not just a home town boy any more. (More details on numbers are listed at the end of this diary.)
PAY TO PLAY
At least some of Pombo's money has come in using scare tactics reminiscent of the shadowy disinformation circulated in Missouri during the 2004 Presidential campaign, claiming that Democrats wanted to "ban the bible". The cause I've looked into (through a few phone calls, not published sources) involves whitewater rafting companies, who got themselves scared into believing there was an effort afoot to keep commercial outfitters out of wilderness areas. (Heretofore, wilderness areas forbade motorized recreation - which Pombo has promoted relentlessly - but not outfitters generally.) Several outfitters got scared into donating to Pombo in conjunction with a March board meeting of America Outdoors (a trade group) in Washington DC.
It's not a lot of money - <$5k total - but because I know someone associated with the industry (who does not like Pombo at all), I decided to try and figure out how they got hooked into giving Pombo money. In several cases, they had little or no history of political giving. They all made contributions to the Ranking Minority Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) on the House Resources Committee (which Pombo chairs) the same week. In fact one of them, Nathan Rangel of Coloma, CA who owns Adventure Connection, has given exactly two political contributions in his life - one to Pombo, one to Rahall, both that week. Their Executive Director, who's also a DC attorney with Birch Horton Bitter & Chero (whose PAC has made mainly GOP contributions, but minor players indeed at <$25k total since 1/1/03), has a personal history of exclusively Republican giving. Again modest, and again with the exception of a donation to Democrat Rahall this same week. I suspect (but do not know) that these checks were written at the Executive Director WIlliam Horn's urging. And that the Rahall donations came as a secondary compromise. As a group, these outfitters have given more to Pombo - and to Rahall - than to all candidates in their own Congressional districts combined.
Since their businesses operate for the most part on public lands, their livelihood depends on the policies of the Interior Dept. In contributing to both Pombo and Rahall, they're hedging their bets. Their goal is to have the ear of whomever sits in the Chair at Resources. But whoever got the ear the outfitters got more mileage on the "threat" of exclusion from wilderness areas than from the threat of losing access to public lands completely by means of Pombo's plans for wholesale sell-offs of same.
This is just one small little industry, and a drop in the bucket of Pombo's 7-figure fundraising juggernaut. But it's also like many others. They aren't giving because they support Pombo's policies, and certainly not his overall philosophy. In fact, some of Pombo's proposed policies, like "modernizing" NEPA, would cut them out of public participation in policies which directly affect them. And which perhaps makes back door face-time (non-public meetings in an official's office) more important than ever. Perhaps these donations were hedging for exactly that reason?
In another instance, the Mashpee Wampanoags (Squanto's tribe, which met the Mayflower at Plymouth) had tried, for decades, to get action on their petition for federal recognition. With backing from a gambling entrepreneur, they hired lobbyists from Team Abramoff, and made over $30k in contributions to Pombo. He, in turn, pushed their case forward and they've now had a favorable initial determination. Pombo says it's just because they had a good cause. But they say the money was well-spent and got them good results. Me, I think it's the White Man speaking with fork-ed tongue here, not the Indians. In this case, unlike the outfitters, the Wampanoags didn't bother to donate anything to Rahall.
It is fair to say that Pombo spends a good deal of effort on legislative initiatives related to his donors. He recently had a fundraiser in Houston, sponsored by oil-industry lobbyists. Last week, Pombo rushed back to the capitol from oilman Dick Cheney's fundrasier in Stockton to shepherd yet another effort at ANWR drilling (the 12th in the House) onto the Floor, his own American-Made Energy and Good Jobs bill. (AMEGJ - What kind of acronym is that?) No wonder the oil industry keeps sending Pombo checks of encouragement! It passed as a mostly stand-alone bill rather than pasted onto Defense Appropriations or some such. But its prospects in the Senate are not good, where it's predicted to be filibustered.
Donors like the rafting companies are giving to Pombo because they want (expect? hope for? seek?) specific benefits for their own narrow interests. They don't buy into Pombo's whole agenda.
There's been no polls released on the Pombo-McCloskey race, at least not that I've been able to find. Whenever negative stories on Pombo are aired, his side (and most of the pundits) respond about his ever-growing campaign war chest. And, don't kid yourself, it is impressive. To me, the Pombo camp seems almost ecstatic about all their money, like my cat acts when I give him some catnip. Like some kind of revivalist holy roller, and with a soupçon of obscenity. And in fact, the opening prayer at the Cheney-Pombo fundraiser was offered by minister Brant Randal Rognart:
"Lord, tonight is all about raising money.
In 1999, before the public had ever heard much of Gov. Bush from Texas, the news was calling attention to his favored candidacy - before a single primary was conducted. He was projected to win based on the amount of money he had in hand. So there's something to it.
But one hopes that money is not everything, even in this Age of the Corporation. Pombo's got a record, and a lot of people don't like it. Let's hope that counts for something. Or rather, let's make sure that counts for something. Money shouldn't be everything.
POSTSCRIPT ON NUMBERS
Things have changed since a Tracy City Councilman ran a scrappy & successful run for Congress in 1992. I included some of these numbers in a previous post, but more data have been incorporated (for April & some from May 2006). Presumably, the word has gone out amongst moneyed Republicans that Pombo needs help. Either that or suddenly everyone's just spontaneously decided that now is the time to give to him. Yeah, right!
Year Total Campaign PAC
2006~ 507,611 435,361 72,250
2005 833,031 521,236 311,792
2004 216,868 139,368 77,500
2003 277,114 203,227 73,887
~ Through mid-May for campaign, through April 30 for the PAC.
Totals per cycle (PAC numbers included from 2003 onward):
Most Americans, by a solid margin in public opinion polls (55-45 last fall, Pew), say they think that corporations have too much power and influence in our society. So, since everyone keeps saying campaign money matters, let's hope the voters of CA-11 consider where Pombo's money is coming from. And keeping that in mind, who he serves.
If you've made it this far, then you deserve a little fun: a collection of links to goofy pictures on Congressional websites from The Hotline.