One of the few real conservative heroes in the current Congress, Rep. Richard Pombo of California, is in danger of being defeated for re-election because of an all-out assault by left-wing environmental groups and the moneyed elite who support environmental zealotry. Polls now show him tied with the Democratic opponent he defeated in 2004 by 61% to 38%.
It’s not just the anti-Republican wave that threatens Pombo. The big environmental pressure groups have made him their top, almost their only, target. Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund opened a fully staffed office in his Northern California district (which includes farming areas in the San Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento and outlying suburbs east of San Francisco Bay) last spring. By the end of September, they had already spent more than half-a-million dollars and planned to spend hundreds of thousands more before Election Day.
Americans for Conservation, a 527 independent expenditure committee set up earlier this year and controlled by Defenders of Wildlife, reported in its most recent filing that it had made media buys of $500,000, all of it aimed at defeating Pombo. The group lists only eight donors, who include an heir to the Getty Oil fortune, an heir to the Hewlett-Packard computer fortune, and an investment partner of the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.).
But that’s not all. National Journal‘s Congress Daily reported on October 31 that the Sierra Club’s political director said that they would spend between $300,000 and $400,000. Reporter Darren Goode wrote, “That might be a lowball figure.” And the League of Conservation Voters is also spending big bucks.
The funny thing about most of the ads paid for by these environmental groups is that they’re not about Pombo’s environmental record. Instead, they focus on alleged ethical lapses. Pombo was a close ally of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.), so he must be involved in the Abramoff scandal, no? No, the charges and insinuations have been investigated by California newspapers unfriendly to conservatives in general and to Pombo in particular. It turns out that Pombo didn’t have anything to do with Abramoff.
Seeing that the environmentalists have made the race competitive, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made a $112,000 ad buy last week. To top it all, on November 1 former President Bill Clinton, typically running one day late for Halloween, arrived to speak at a rally for the Democratic challenger, Jerry McNerney.
Add it all up and by Election Day, the dollars from special interests flowing into the 11th District of California to defeat Pombo will easily top $2 million.
The reason that environmental pressure groups are spending far more in this race than any other in the country is what makes Richard Pombo a hero. As chairman of the House Resources Committee, he has taken on the left-wing environmentalists on the big issues and has the bites and bruises to prove it.
Pombo last year successfully guided a radical overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to passage on the House floor by a 229-to-193 vote. The hysterical opposition of nearly all the environmental pressure groups was not because the bill would weaken protections for endangered wildlife. Protecting endangered wildlife is of secondary concern to the fat cat environmentalists. What they love about the Endangered Species Act is that it is the most powerful tool to control land use of all the federal government’s programs.
Pombo’s bill would change that by requiring that if an Endangered Species Act regulation destroys the value of private property, the landowner must be compensated. In fact, respecting people’s property rights means that Pombo’s bill would actually help protect endangered species because landowners would no longer fear having them on their property.
For groups like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, trying to limit the power of government to control people and property is the greatest crime a member of Congress can commit. That’s the main reason they’re trying to defeat Pombo.
He has offended in other ways as well. The House Resources Committee has jurisdiction over the four federal land agencies, which together control one quarter of the nation’s land. Under Pombo’s leadership, the committee has tried to keep some of those 560 million acres open to economic use.
In particular, Pombo as chairman has tried to open up more federal lands and offshore areas to oil and gas production. Sixty per cent of the oil we use is now imported. Much more oil and natural gas could be produced in this country, but the federal government has locked up a large share of the U.S.’s vast reserves.
Pombo has led the effort in the House to open up a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production and to open the 85% of offshore areas currently closed to production.
Producing more energy is the “last thing” we should be doing, according to the environmental movement. Instead, the federal government should require that people use less energy and alternative forms of energy that cost a lot more. It drives the environmentalists nuts when elected leaders like Pombo aren’t afraid to say that affordable energy is a good thing and we need more of it.
Naturally, all these good bills passed by the House have died in the Senate. It may take many more years to get any of them through the House and the Senate and signed by the president. The reason is because we don’t have enough courageous and determined conservative leaders in the Congress like Richard Pombo.
That’s why it’s important that conservative activists do everything they can in the last few days of the campaign to help re-elect Richard Pombo. I believe America needs him.