Thursday, May 04, 2006

Could 13 be Richard Pombo's Unlucky Number?

TPM Muckraker is reporting that watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is pushing for a formal investigation of CA-11's Rep. Richard Pombo by the House Ethics Committee and the IRS. In its press release, CREW has this to say:

Washington, DC – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has prepared an ethics complaint and filed an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) complaint against Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), alleging that he violated federal laws and House rules. Last fall, CREW named Rep. Pombo one of the 13 most corrupt Members of Congress.

CREW is asking that a Member of the House forward the thirteen count ethics complaint against Rep. Pombo to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, better known as the House Ethics Committee. CREW is not submitting the complaint directly to the Ethics Committee directly because outside groups are barred from filing complaints. The rules allow a Member of the House to certify that CREW’s complaint has a good faith basis and forward the complaint to the Ethics Committee, stating that the complaint merits the Committee’s consideration.

You can check out the actual ethics complaint and the IRS complaint for all the gruesome details.


Blogger VPO said...

The question is if a Member of the House will forward this to the Ethics Committee. The only downside is that the Ethics Committee is a big whitewash, do-nothing crowd. They won't investigate their own. But at least it brings the subject up and directs attention to Pombo's stupendous lack of ethics throughout his House career.

"The rules allow a Member of the House to certify that CREW’s complaint has a good faith basis and forward the complaint to the Ethics Committee, stating that the complaint merits the Committee’s consideration."

12:11 PM, May 04, 2006  
Blogger Delta said...

I would be more surprised if Pelosi did this than if Boehlert has one parting gestrue before he retires.

12:20 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Babaloo-ie!

Good to see you catch Pombo with a stiff jab to his quivering jowls!

-Rocky Balboa

1:50 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a bad hit, but CREW has very little credibility left and these allegations are weak. There's no evidence - just news stories. If we're going to beat Pombo it will have to be on his record of destroying the environment.

3:53 PM, May 04, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

I disagree. Pombo's environmental record is only one way to get at the more fundamental fact that he is extreme, venal, unethical, and out of touch.

4:18 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you guys are missing the big one! Dick's district is 30% hispanic. You need to beat the shit out of him for his statement of "no amnesty!" get with the program. hes toast!

6:00 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone know anything about the sexual harrasment case against Filson?

6:01 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and when did he stop beating his wife?

8:18 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now wait jist a minute. This is Rocky Balboa here, and dese last two postings are bullshit. Matt - you need to delete 'em. And pronto if you aims to be fair.

Now I may not like dis Rickey guy cuz he tends ta be full a shit, but I don't like other buttwipes that drop bullshit about a man beating his wife or sexually assaulting anything widdout any EVIDENCE (unless its a sheep).

As I say to dis here Rickey guy, where's the evidence ta support these slanderous allegations you anonymous sac-o-terds? Put it up pronto or take dese posts down adelanto. Rocky likes ta win, but youse gotta fair. That's why me and my friend Apollo Creed, we accept the decison of the ref, even tho we could punch his lights out if we wanted to.

11:05 PM, May 04, 2006  
Blogger CF said...

Those two posts are blatantly untrue, and the comments need to come down.

3:26 AM, May 05, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Whoever put the slanderous remarks about Filson up has succeeded in taking the discussion away from the CREW report on Pombo. So I am going back there.

I read Lisa V's CC Times article today -- Pombo sloughs the complaints off as a liberal partisan attack. He has a reply for everything. (like in "I wasn't stealing candy, I was trying to get some food for the homeless boy outside.") He is all Mr. Sanctimonious, offended that anyone dare question him.

From article (with my comments inserted in bold):

"I have never engaged in any illegal or unethical conduct whatsoever in my nearly 14-year career in the House [kind of like "I did not have sex with that woman"], nor has any evidence been produced to support an allegation to the contrary," [Facts never were Pombo's strong point] said Pombo in an e-mail statement. "It is common knowledge that CREW is a liberal-activist organization masquerading as a government watchdog group." [It's common knowledge that Pombo is right-wing extremist masquerading as a government official.]

Republicans regard the ethics group as a liberal front because of the backgrounds of its board of directors and the majority of its wrath has been directed toward Republicans. [Maybe because the Republicans in Congress are some of the most corrupt in history? Like Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks. "That's where the money is," he replied. With Republicans, that is where the corruption is.]

7:41 AM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous jbmendel said...

Rocky usually annoys me (albeit entertainingly), but props for not holding double standards.

9:28 AM, May 05, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

At this point I'm not going to delete anything. The first objectionable comment was made without evidence, and I think that everyone can see that. Furthermore, I think the responses in this thread do a better job of deflecting the charge than would be the case if I simply deleted the comment.

Now the second question that people seem to find objectionable is actually a critique of the first comment. It's a reference to a common example given when people are discussing loaded questions. I'll quote from this website:

A "loaded question", like a loaded gun, is a dangerous thing. A loaded question is a question with a false or questionable presupposition, and it is "loaded" with that presumption. The question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" presupposes that you have beaten your wife prior to its asking, as well as that you have a wife. If you are unmarried, or have never beaten your wife, then the question is loaded.

Since this example is a yes/no question, there are only the following two direct answers:

"Yes, I have stopped beating my wife", which entails "I was beating my wife."
"No, I haven't stopped beating my wife", which entails "I am still beating my wife."
Thus, either direct answer entails that you have beaten your wife, which is, therefore, a presupposition of the question. So, a loaded question is one which you cannot answer directly without implying a falsehood or a statement that you deny. For this reason, the proper response to such a question is not to answer it directly, but to either refuse to answer or to reject the question.

I've heard similar examples many, many times. And in fact if you google the phrase you'll see that it's a fairly widely used as the quintessential loaded (or BS) question.

So I'm certainly not going to delete it because it is an implicit, although to my mind effective, critique of the first objectionable comment. I am surprised that others didn't pick up on the reference, but I don't think my reading is idiosyncratic at all.

9:56 AM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous Wayne Johnson said...

Wayne here. Check out my new radio ad.

10:35 AM, May 05, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

I caught that, Matt, but wanted to focus on Pombo and CREW allegations. I assumed everyone else knew that "Have you stopped beating your wife?" was a common loaded question and that the second anon who posted it was actually mocking the first anon.

With that out of the way, Pombo sure is slimy, with the mainstream press going right along. All the articles I have seen on the CREW report letting him slither out of it by calling it a "liberal attack". Seems we have a bunch of stenographers, not reporters, around here.

Lisa V, as much as I like her, did not even mention Pombo's most egregrious offense, that of using his Congressional position to subpoena internal FDIC documents about an investigation of MAXXAM, run by Tom DeLay's buddy Charles Hurwitz. This investigation was an attempt to recover some of the $1.6 billion that taxpayers paid to Hurwitz as part of an S&L bailout.

Hurwitz had acquired Pacific Lumber in a leveraged buyout and was "liquidating" its assets to pay off the junk bonds. Those "assets" were some of the last stands of old-growth redwoods.

The FDIC was considering a trade of some of the redwoods as a way to both pay off the debt and preserve these unique stands of old-growth forest.

By using his Congressional powers to subpoena the internal FDIC documents, and then publishing this in the Congressional Record, Pombo managed to blow up the FDIC's case and the subsequently had to drop it. He served as the henchman for Tom DeLay, protected a major contributor (and a corporate scoundrel), and was later rewarded with the chairmanship of the House Resources Committee.

If that does not stink, I don't know what does. And that is not a "liberal attack", it is fact and reality, things it seems Pombo is not too familiar with.

11:02 AM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...


Just so I understand this correctly, you remove a whole thread of comments about a book that McNereny allegedly lent his name to on the grounds that the critical comments would only help Pombo, but don't have an objection to the above unsubstantiated innuendo about sexual harassment to stand?

Please enlighten me as to the difference between the two.

8:49 PM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo Matt.

Whaddya you a moron or sumtin? Now while this Ricky guy reminds me of Joey ButtaWipeO from Long Island, and by the way, duh reason dey called him ButtaWipeO was precisely cuz his underwear really was in a bind, kinda like a thong, and well it wiped his butt real good, but hey, never mind I'm going off on another one of dem tangerines.

Anyways, you can't leave that BS post about Stevey Boy doing shit like that. It's far worse in comparison to McNerney signing some book or sumtin and you took dat off. I mean, c'mon - what Stevey Boy is unfairly charged with is far woise then the original BS. You ain't being fair if you don't take it down.

Sheeet - I ain't never thought I'd agree with Prickly Rick - or is it Rickly Prick - but da sumbitch is right on this one. Hell, I may even have suggested it foist. No matter. It jist ain't right to leave BS like that up.

Rocky (Adrian went to the pet shop, so I'm batching in tonite.)

10:29 PM, May 05, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

Ummm, there is a big difference between a lone, unsubstantiated and vague comment made anonymously on a blog and a demonstrably false comment, made by the Campaign Manager of a campaign, that is repeated over and over again as part of a campaign (both online and offline) to smear one's political opponent.

11:11 PM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

Matt -

As you know, I usually agree with the substance of your posts as well as your blog policy. You are one of the most honest, conscientious, and fair people that I know, especially in the political world. As a blogger, I also think you've done an excellent job navigating the treacherous waters of SNTP and keeping this blog relatively troll-free. Your substantive posts, insightful comments, and take-no-bullshit demeanor make this blog one of the best around.

That's why it pains me to say that -- in this particularly prickly situation -- I disagree with your decision to allow the offending comment to remain public.


I re-read what you wrote when you deleted the previous trollish comments directed at McNerney:

I have removed a line of commentary that I consider trollish. I will not tolerate comments that might help Pombo against an eventual Democratic nominee. The primary needs to be more than a pyrrhic victory, and some things won't be tolerated on this blog. I will summarily remove any further comments that might serve to give Pombo ammunition to use against the eventual Democratic nominee.

Based on the above reasoning (a de facto policy, it would appear), you should "summarily remove" the comments above about Filson. Unless there is verifiable proof that the rumors are true, those comments have no place on this blog -- according to the policy stated above.

As a campaign staff member, it distresses me to see unsubstantiated rumors posted about any candidate -- McNerney, Filson, or Thomas. The only person that stands to benefit from the posting of such unconfirmed information is Richard Pombo.

Finally, I think it's important for all of us to place ourselves in our opponent's shoes. If the "sexual harrassment" claim had been directed at McNerney, I would be absolutely livid -- as I was when Filson's campaign manager communicated a specious claim about McNerney to a convention delegate prior to the endorsement vote (a fact that Robert Kellar later admitted to me without compunction or regret).

I know I would not have done what Robert Kellar did -- that clearly crossed the line. Conversely, I would not allow our campaign to spread unsubstantiated and malicious rumors about Filson. Period. (I would resign my position immediately if I ever witnessed such behavior within our campaign). Unless the rumors are proven, posting them publicly is completely outside the bounds of fairness.

Despite the egregious actions of his campaign manager, Steve Filson deserves the same thoughtful consideration that you have given Jerry McNerney. NEITHER candidate should be subjected to unsubstantiated rumors. BOTH candidates deserve to be critiqued -- and critiqued harshly, if necessary -- on the facts and the facts alone.

All that said, Matt, IMHO, your policy statement above clearly said in no uncertain terms that these types of trollish rumors would be deleted immediately. As a result, I would encourage you to seriously reconsider your decision. If we do not want to give credence to the very behavior we find objectionable within this process, it's up to us to uphold higher standards of conduct inside and outside the campaigns.

Honesty. Integrity. Accountability.

It's not just campaign rhetoric.

McNerney for Congress

2:11 AM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

Just to reiterate in case it wasn't clear before:

If we do not want to give credence to the very behavior we find objectionable within this process, it's up to us to uphold higher standards of conduct inside and outside the campaigns.

Although I appended this comment to a paragraph asking Matt to reconsider his decision, it was not intended to be directed at him.

It was actually intended to be directed to EVERYONE who is invested in this campaign -- staff, volunteers, bloggers, commenters, lurkers, voters.


Do the right thing. Or else end up becoming the very Rove-like evil you abhor.

It's really as simple as that.


2:25 AM, May 06, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

I don't have time to get into the weeds about these last comments, but I disagree strenuously with EDJ and the implicit assumptions that he has made.

First of all, there is no question that it's bullshit to level anonymous and unsubstantiated attacks in the comment section of a blog.

But I am not going to robotically delete such comments. And my decision not to delete this comment has nothing to do with the target of attack.

I have had extensive conversations with two of Steve Filson's children about the comment, and both seem capable of understanding and accepting my decision. I understand that neither officially represents the campaign of their father, and should his campaign make a request to delete the comments I will seriously reconsider it. But barring that, the fact that my reasoning seems accessible to folks who unquestionably support Filson over McNerney satisfies me that I am operating in a principled and even-handed manner. Obviously, I need to do a better job of articulating those principles.

I really do not have time to develop a full comment policy before the end of the weekend, although I will try to come up with something I can post.

In the meantime, I want to simply aver that deleting a comment is a last resort. I have a lot of faith in the ability of the people of good will who read this blog to identify and denounce bullshit. Bullshit, offered once and then roundly denounced, is not going to give Pombo any ammunition against anyone. There is no political efficacy in the offending comment.

And although I DO find it offensive, I think it's important to note that I also got calls to delete the comment following the offending comment. Patently, the second comment can be misconstrued to be as offensive as the first. But it isn't.

I have never articulated a policy that left no room for my own discretion. I reserve the right to look not only at the content of the comment, but the behavior of those who make the comment (which includes posting information on multiple threads). I reserve the right to consider the larger context of the comment and whether there is any sort of coordinated political misinformation campaign underway. I also reserve the right to consider both tactical as well as strategic considerations.

Lastly, I want to say that when the primary is over (if not before) we are going to get a increased influx of pro-Pombo trolls. Everyone here has the agency and the responsibility to help control that. You have the power to respond. And I expect people to do so.

You want to know how to disincentivize comments like the one you all seem to find so offensive? Respond to it. Denounce it. Stand united, McNerney and Filson (and Thomas) supporters alike and condemn it. To this point in the thread I've receive more criticism than the original commenter.

I am not your nanny. You all (who have commented) have to take some ownership of the comment section and speak to the content of one another's comments that you find objectionable. That's partly why there is a comment section in the first place.

But please do not presume that the comment section contains the totality of my thoughts on meta-blogging issues. A lot of that is decided outside the context of the comment section based on e-mails and personal conversations I have with others, including my co-bloggers. In the meantime, I will work to establish some publicly accessible policy on trolling and comment deletion.

7:59 AM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous rick said...

Keep dissembling. The fact that we are even debating whether smears should be tolerated on this forum reveals a lot about your credibility, integrity, and judgment.

Steve Filson's son asked that you remove that reckless smear, which any reasonable person would have honored without objection. Instead, you maintain this fig leaf posture that the smear-like nature of the smear speaks for itself.

Just remember, what comes around, goes around.

12:29 PM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

"Rick" -

Your comments are unfair to Matt -- ESPECIALLY the implied threat at the end:

Just remember, what comes around, goes around.

Shame on you.

While I agree that the comment should be deleted, your venom is only one step removed from what that troll wrote.

State your case -- not threatening invective that only serves to inflame the situation further.


12:52 PM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

Matt -

Thank you for taking the time to explain your thinking behind this. You've made a very compelling argument. I still feel that you need to be relatively consistent in your "policy" -- but I understand that no such formal written policy actually exists and that these situations will actually inform your policy, once it is written.

I look forward to reading your written policy, once it's created. That will certainly provide an objective measure for others to judge whether you are being fair or not (despite "Rick's" veiled threat).

You wrote:

You want to know how to disincentivize comments like the one you all seem to find so offensive? Respond to it. Denounce it. Stand united, McNerney and Filson (and Thomas) supporters alike and condemn it.

What is fortunate is that a culture is developing here that SHOULD be self-policing. While we don't have community "troll-ratings" like other blogs so that these comments can be automatically removed by community consensus (no fault of Matt's -- that takes some serious programming/money), we do have a responsibility to comment these unsubstantiated rumors into irrelevancy by letting readers know that what was written is unacceptable (I attempted to do as much in my comment).

As far as the offending comment is concerned, I think anyone reading this thread will now know beyond any doubt that it was not worth the pixels produced. To that end, we've done our collective job as a community.

Thank you, Matt, for being a conscientious steward of this forum.


p.s. our "Four-County Canvass" went really well today. Team McNerney had boots on the ground in 7 cities in ALL 4 counties this morning! Walkers are coming back in the door, so I've got to go now...

1:48 PM, May 06, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

For the record, Steve Filson's son withdrew his request when I discussed it with him over e-mail.

And if you had actually read my comment, you might have seen that I wrote:

I have had extensive conversations with two of Steve Filson's children about the comment, and both seem capable of understanding and accepting my decision

That might have clued you in that the request from Chris Filson is no longer standing. At the very least, it put you on notice that you are not privy to the entire conversation.

So Rick, you continue your almost perfect streak of comments that are both petty and ignorant. Bravo!

2:13 PM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous JohnMac said...

I see a lot of rancor in this and other threads. It got sidetracked - perhaps hijacked would be a better word - by some slanderous posts about one of the candidates. I've noticed that it happened just at the point when discussion was serious about ways and methods of delivering Pombo's walking papers. It is distracting and defocusing.

It occurs to me that Pombo's bunch must be snickering at the attacks some so-called Dems are blasting at the candidates. I hope everyone who lurks, posts, and blogs realizes that he is certainly reading every word... and maybe... even posting. Is 'anonymous' in Pombo's camp?

When the primary is over, there will be one winner. Talk of McNerney's supporters not continuing to help put Pombo out, and Filson's DCCC support not helping McNerney if he wins the primary is antithetical to the purpose of this blog in the larger picture.

I know the primary is hotly contested, but in the end, we will have to stick together. Who is more electable should be the major question here (and in Washington), and how to get him elected is the next logical question... not how can this infighting help Pombo.

8:22 AM, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous bgibb said...

As one of the individuals whose postings were removed under the accusation of trolling, I find this discussion interesting. Of course, I’m really not trolling and I find Pombo disgustingly objectionable—I’m not interested in providing him ammo in a general election. Nonetheless, it is a fairly amateurish view to hold that primary contests should avoid a true examination of who is most qualified, whose views might be over the top, who might be compromised once in office, etc. in order to shield the candidate who wins in the general election. In so doing, you would turn these races—some of the few in which substantive issues can actually be discussed—into nothing more fruitful than Bush and Kerry pledging allegiance to their country in alternating instances of gross hyperbole under the assumption that this will appeal to the masses. That said, tossing out a random, unsubstantiated question about sexual harassment does not qualify as substantive. Not erasing it, based on the accumulation of evidence I have garnered from this site, is indicative of willful bias. And yet, I don’t much care, for the responses by both Filson and McNerney supporters have all but obliterated the charge. More power to you all for that. To delete the previous string, however, remains a decision cloaked in utter mystery to me—why it is out of bounds to bring up a published work that a candidate has knowingly attached his name to, thereby endorsing the viewpoints contained therein, is more than puzzling. The majority of postings on this site pertain to support—who got their volunteers out to this or that event, the latest “word” from people at this or that rally, who dissed this or that grassroots organization thus turning off its members, and on and on. Regardless of what you do with the sexual harassment and wife beating posts, I suggest you allow people to discuss issues and the actual, rather than contrived and clichéd, differences between the candidates.

8:32 AM, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo Matt.

Rocky here. I been following dis discussion here, and like I said earlier, I tink you should take down the slander.

Jist one question: If that post was made about Jerry by my friend Prickly Rickly, you would have taken it down in a heartbeat. Am I right about dis, or what?

Even Jerry's people are telling you to take it down. It don't matter nuttin what Filson's kids tink - it is jist plain wrong to have BS like dis. Adrian agrees, and so does Paulie.

You ain't nuttin if you can't be a fair modulator. No double standards, even if Rickey is a blowhard and a friggin idiot who tinks threats will get him what he wants.

Yo Rickey - remember Rockey don't like people who threaten others. Yer nuttin but a punk.

11:09 AM, May 07, 2006  

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