Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pombo: I Am Not A Crook

Today it might be useful to take a trip in the Way Back Machine to last October, when Matt wrote a terrific post called On Pombo’s Bullshit. In that piece, Matt referred to one of Pombo’s favorite stories about his family ethos:
I have a Portuguese grandmother who used to say, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."
Well, the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Pombo family.

Richard Pombo is at it again on the issue of ethics. Under attack by not only his Democratic opponents, Jerry McNerney, Steve Filson and Steve Thomas, but also fending off charges of unethical behavior by his Republican challengers, Pete McCloskey and Tom Benigno, here’s how Pombo responded at Monday evening’s candidate forum in Tracy.
Pombo vigorously defended his record and his integrity to the audience of several hundred people, which appeared roughly split between his supporters and McCloskey’s. Pombo’s wife, Annette, and his three school-age children sat prominently in the front row […]

As for allegations that he has behaved unethically, Pombo delivered a passionate and deliberate statement: “To my family, to my friends and my neighbors, and to my kids, I have never broken any rules in the House of Representatives. I have never broken any laws. All I have done is fight for what is right.”
Wow, that really tugs on the heartstrings. Too bad it’s bullshit.

Notice how the challenge to his ethical behavior remains completely unanswered? Here’s the definition of “unethical”:
adj 1: not conforming to approved standards of social or professional behavior; "unethical business practices" [ant: ethical] 2: not adhering to ethical or moral principles; "base and unpatriotic motives"; "a base, degrading way of life"; "cheating is dishonorable"; "they considered colonialism immoral"; "unethical practices in handling public funds"
And Pombo’s response? A careful parsing of words.
I have never broken any rules in the House of Representatives. I have never broken any laws.
To purposefully conflate unethical behavior with criminal behavior is bullshit of the highest order. Pombo may not have broken any laws, but his behavior while in Congress has been clearly unethical. By changing the subject from ethics to legal technicalities, Pombo gives the appearance of having refuted his critics but has, in fact, completely dodged the accusations against him.

Just as an example, last month The Association of Fundraising Professionals publicly assailed the ethics of Rep. John Doolittle, saying
[His] practice of paying a 15 percent fundraising commission to a company owned by his wife violates the ethical standards of the industry. […]

Another professional organization, the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, similarly regards commission-based fundraising as unethical, according to the organization's Web site.

"Contracts providing for a contingent fee, a commission, or a fee based on percentage of funds raised are prohibited," it says.
Now, Richard Pombo’s wife, Annette, who sat gazing adoringly at her husband from the front row Monday evening, also works as a fundraiser for her husband and has, like Julie Doolittle, engaged in the unethical practice of commission-based fundraising. You can listen to this radio interview where Richard Pombo freely admits that he and his wife engaged in this practice. Just as a point of reference, over the last two years Annette Pombo has received $85,275 from her husband’s campaign coffers. And yet when questioned about the ethics of his wife collecting a percentage of donations made to his campaign, Pombo’s response was, of course, that he and his wife are not doing anything illegal.

Too bad Richard Pombo’s grandmother never taught the family that “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, it is very possible that Pombo HAS broken the law. In 2000 Pombo took two foreign trips paid for a shadowy private foundation. According to The Center for Public Integrity, these trips "may have broken the law" and both the foundation and Pombo "could face stiff penalties from the IRS."

Second, Pombo's campaign payments to his wife have received far too little scrutiny from the press and public. By paying his wife out of his campaign account he is allowing corporate special interests to literally put money in his pocket. Exxon-Mobil PAC writes a check to Pombo's campaign committee -- the committee pays Annette Pombo -- she puts the money into their joint checking account -- Pombo benefits from the money. Pombo is being PAID by the people he regulates. This may be petty bribery when compared to Duke Cunningham -- but it is bribery none the less. And it is absolutely shameful.

3:28 PM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger babaloo said...

A big thank you to SFBrianCL over at Calitics who has transcribed the pertinent section of the radio interview I linked to in this post.

"She has done it both ways. There have been times when she has been paid strictly a salary and there have been times when she has gotten a percentage of what she actually raised.

"My wife is working for my campaign. She raises money for other campaigns and other non-profits. I would be hiring another fundraiser to do the same job."

6:06 PM, May 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the forum this when people were yelling at Pombo to "answer the question"

9:04 PM, May 17, 2006  

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