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I called C-SPAN's segment on the 2006 Congressional races this morning.  About Heather Wilson/Patricia Madrid (NM-1), and about my ongoing research interest: Richard Pombo (CA-11).  They skipped comment on Pombo, so I followed up with an e-mail, and (surprise!) it was taken up later in the show.

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

Last commentary I'd run across - maybe a month ago - suggested that if McCloskey got 30%, Pombo was in trouble.  Mr. Todd, who pays attention to such things, just floated 40%(!).  And 30% was considered to be pretty much pie-in-the-sky dreaming just a month or two ago.  The panel also included Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe, and Kathy Keily from USA Today.

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.

SUMMARY
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
2002      341,674
2001        58,612
2000        56,485
1999        47,915
1998      111,810
1997        42,730
1996      142,819
1995        65,905
1994      141,067
1993      117,414
1992      216,414

~ Through mid-May for campaign, through April 30 for the PAC.

Totals per cycle (PAC numbers included from 2003 onward):
1992        216,414
1994        258,481
1996        208,724
1998        154,540
2000        104,400
2002        400,286
2004        493,982
2006      1,340,642

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.

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:13 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thew other woman ws Kathy Kiely, USA Today (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment

    lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    by cabinetman1 on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:26:33 PM PDT

  •  Dems may be too busy (0+ / 0-)

    campaigning for McNerney or Filsen (?) now to respond - but I'm sure they would have some input on this...

    There are a slew of people calling, walking, fundraising etc. to GOTV in that district against Pombo.

    Or maybe they're just enjoying the beautiful day :)

    Now, it's my turn to get some sun.

  •  Congrats on the C-Span exposure! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dreaming of Better Days

    Sorry I missed it - and its rare for me to miss that show, too.  I think more of us need to watch and call in or email with pertinent facts.  I hear way too much speculation and/or false information from some of the callers, and I just love it when I hear someone call in and debunk the lies or misconceptions.  Good for you!

  •  Have you taken a side in the primary? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment

    Plus, Pombo is in a very, very precarious position, geographically that is. He'll probably survive this year bruised but alive. But, his 54% pro-Bush district is bordered by several 65+ percent Pro-Kerry districts, and one 58% pro-Kerry district. So, they're are plenty of nearby Democratic votes that could be redrawn into a new Democratic leaning district.

    •  I'm for McCloskey over Pombo (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ArkDem14

      But I suppose that's not what you're asking.  I've not taken a position on Filson vs. McNerney, and am a little dismayed at some of the rancor I occasionally see between the camps.  Whoever prevails in that primary is my man!!  Not that it means a lot - I can't vote there, and don't really have much in the way of money to contribute.

      But I'll keep researching and writing on the pernicious little teletubby that is Richard Pombo.  And hopefully, some of that will help.

      •  Yeah, (0+ / 0-)

        I'm prety much for the stronger candidate there. Filson's raised about two and a half times as much money as McNerney, and seeing as how McNerney got beaten by about 61-39 margin, he doesn't strike as a particularly good candidate. He's a little liberal for this moderate to conservative district, while Filson's more moderate, a better fit for the district. But, If Republicans nominated McCloskey, I'd vote for him no matter who the Dem is, simply because it'd be nice to have one more liberal Republican.

        •  Sorry (0+ / 0-)

          make that 3 60+ districts, and one 73 percent pro-Kerry district, along with that 58% pro-Kerry district. Pombo shouldn't even be in congress.

        •  FYI (0+ / 0-)

          I posted this comment in a previous thread in response to a comment similar to yours.  I think the CW is wrong about McNerney vs. Filson, and I think it captures why:

          First of all, McNerney didn't even run a full campaign last time because he had to run a write-in campaign in the primary to get on the general election ballot, and then he had to go through a recount before he was put on the general election ballot.  That happened about this time last cycle.

          Second, the last time Tauscher et al picked a candidate to run against Pombo, she (Elaine Shaw, the candidate) lost by the same margin as McNerney. This despite the fact that she was somewhat known in Contra Costa County, that she spent $600,000, that she had the full backing of the party, and that she was able to run a full campaign.  We have no indication that Steve Filson is a better pick than Elaine Shaw.  

          Third, there is going to be a lot more energy and excitement to fight Richard Pombo this cycle, and a lot of it is coming from McNerney supporters. If Filson wins, there will be significantly less excitement for him than for McNerney.  

          Fourth, the idea that Filson is moderate and that McNerney is liberal is just fatuous.  They have differences on policy issues that do not align them neatly on a unitary spectrum.  True, Filson says that he's moderate.  But he also is proud to champion gay marriage in a district that is very socially conservative.  On the other hand, Filson is proposing building more nuclear power plants, something that has no support in the district from the type of folks who might vote against Pombo.  And Filson hasn't been able to articulate any sort of populist message in a district that has very poor areas.  If you don't think that Pombo will hammer Filson for being a rich guy from the richest part of an otherwise poor to middle-class district, you're out of your mind.  McNerney, on the other hand, is very solidly middle class.  He went to a Catholic, military boarding school in Kansas for high school.   And he has a strong family life, having been married to his wife for 27 years.  All of this will play well in the district.  

          Fifth, I know a lot of moderate and conservative Democrats (and even some Republicans) who are supporting McNerney because they believe that McNerney will fight for their economic interests.  And a corollary to this is that they believe that they know what McNerney stands for and that they believe that he is an honorable guy.      

          Sixth, if Filson were a better fit for the district you'd imagine that he'd find support within the district.  So far that hasn't happened.  His money has largely come from PACs and large-dollar contributions from outside of the district.  

          Now none of these last three points mean that McNerney will beat Pombo.  But the idea that Filson is a better fit for the district because of his ideology is superficial in the extreme.

      •  Too true (0+ / 0-)

        "[...]some of the rancor I occasionally see between the camps."

        In the next few days we'll need to do some brainstorming on how best to mend our fences.

    •  With a little hoping (0+ / 0-)

      and a lot of working... we'll see how it goes.  I think we have a shot at taking it, but those who don't may see it as part of the 50 state strategy.

      How did the Southern Kossacks roll call turn out?  I'll give you a heads up next time I'm headed to Pulaski County.

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