On Saturday, I wrote about Richard Pombo’s participation in a buffalo hunt sponsored in 2004 by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. The main focus of the post was on the fate of the humble prairie dog and how the Rosebud Sioux were hoping to enlist the aid of Pombo in their efforts to rid themselves of ESA regulations that protect the prairie dog and, in the eyes of the tribe, diminish their ranching profits. To that end, the tribe hosted a fundraiser for Richard Pombo where hunters were invited to pay $5,000 to Pombo’s Rich PAC for the privilege of shooting a buffalo from the tribe’s herd. Not coincidentally, Richard Pombo, as chairman of the House Resources Committee, not only has oversight of all policy affecting federally-owned lands, but is responsible for heading up the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What got me thinking about Pombo’s 2004 event was the recent news that a former deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, David Smith had resigned after an ethics probe where he, too, participated in a buffalo hunt sponsored by a group who had business before his federal agency. Here’s another section from the article I quoted earlier about Smith’s encounter with federal investigators:
Smith did not pay for the hunt, the taxidermy or the 20 pounds of bison meat he put in a cooler and gave to a relative until after investigators began inquiring about the kill, according to the document, which The Washington Post obtained this week through a Freedom of Information Act request. He eventually shelled out $3,170.54 to cover the costs.Now, the similarities between these two hunting events are striking, with only one exception that I can see.
Pombo never paid for his buffalo.
He also never reported it as a gift on his 2004 Financial Disclosure Statement. And it might be safe to assume that since he never reported the gift, he also never paid taxes on it.
It seems pretty clear-cut here. According to statements filed with the FEC, on April 26, 2004, Rich PAC posted a $5,000 contribution from the Viejas Tribal Government, which acted as a co-sponsor for the April 19 hunt. That is the only donation Pombo’s PAC received that can, in any obvious way, be connected with the fundraiser, which according to an April 20, 2004, report in the Argus Leader was sparsely attended by paying guests. As far as PAC expenditures related to this event, the only potentially related expenditures consist of two $147 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Rapid City, South Dakota, that were posted on April 27, 2004.
One other thing about this buffalo hunt is pretty clear. Thanks to the advance publicity for the event, a $5,000 price tag to take a buffalo would seem to be well established. But there is no mention anywhere in the financial records of a $5,000 payment from Pombo or his Rich PAC for the privilege of killing a member of the tribe’s herd. If Pombo paid his way on this excursion, I’m not finding any record of it.
That would mean the $5,000 buffalo was, indeed, a gift (albeit an unreported and untaxed one) from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to Congressman Richard Pombo, serving in his role as Chairman of the House Resources Committee and head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
So I’ll repeat my question from Saturday, phrasing it a little bit differently: If there are “rules banning federal officials from accepting gifts from people who are regulated by, or might do business with, their agency,” why has there been no federal investigation of this apparently unreported gift to Richard Pombo from the Rosebud Sioux?