Saying No To Richard Pombo's Corruption
Back before the primary, I questioned whether CA-11 voters were indifferent to Richard Pombo’s corruption. The Washington Post had just come out with an article about the mood among voters in the run-up to the June election, and Pete McCloskey sounded genuinely distressed by the apathy he encountered on the campaign trail.
"When I talk about ethics, the response quite often is, 'Yeah, [Pombo’s] a crook, but he's our crook, and isn't everybody a crook out there?' " McCloskey said in an interview last week.Subsequent to the primary, the folks over at MyDD did polling down in CA-50 to determine exactly how Francine Busby’s campaign failed to connect with voters in a district where the former Republican representative, Duke Cunningham, was sitting in a jail cell, convicted of bribery. Their findings were somewhat similar. They found that the DCCC message for this election cycle of the “Republican Culture of Corruption” failed to resonate among voters in CA-50. The bottom-line problem with the messaging was the perception among voters in general, and independents in particular, that all politicians are crooks.
I’m sorry, but how on earth did we get to the point where we not only believe that our politicians are all crooks but are willing to accept that as the norm? If you took your favorite jacket to the dry cleaners and, when you came back to pick it up, the clerk told you, “Oh, yeah, that was a nice jacket. I got a good price for it on Craigslist,” would you sit back and complacently say, “Oh, those darn dry cleaners, what are you gonna do?” If you dropped your $20,000 car off at the mechanic’s for servicing and came back at the end of the day to see the dismantler’s truck pulling away, and the mechanic said blankly, “Car? What car?” would you shake your head and say, “You know how those mechanics are — they’re just a bunch of crooks”? I don’t think so. You’d be freaken pissed, and you know it. You’d call the police; you’d call the district attorney; you’d call the local newspaper; you’d protest; you might even consider something illegal by way of retribution.
So why should CA-11 voters be so willing to shrug off Congressman Richard Pombo’s corruption? Under his watch, our nation has plunged into deficit spending; at last count each and every one of us owes $28,000 towards the national debt, money that the Republican-led government has borrowed on our behalf to finance tax cuts for the rich and sweetheart deals for the special interests. Pombo has used his position to steal from his constituents and enrich himself and his friends. So you tell me — why aren’t the voters totally pissed off?
Well, some of us ARE, and we have tried to hold Richard Pombo accountable.
We know that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has prepared a Congressional ethics complaint and an IRS complaint against Pombo; but in the Republican-dominated Congress, they are still waiting for a member to step forward to present the complaints on their behalf. With regard to any action from the Justice Department, well, dream on; there's not much chance for any indictments so long as Alberto Gonzales is running the show. So far, law enforcement hasn’t given us much satisfaction.
As for calling the papers, well, our local media is corrupt and lazy. We have the Stockton Records of the world who flat-out lie, telling us that black is white. Then we have the Lisa Vorderbrueggens of the world who might mention that, well, yes, there are charges that Richard Pombo funneled $22 million in taxpayer dollars to freeway studies that significantly increased the value of his family’s land holdings, but they’re only charges; and, gosh, that Jerry McNerney sure is unpolished, and look how he changed some answers on a questionnaire — as though those two acts were somehow equivalent and, wow, isn’t she fair and impartial.
So here we are, stuck with a politician who has robbed us blind. We’ve tried the police — they didn’t do anything. We’ve tried the media — eh, not so much. So what are our choices? Well, we can either shrug and say, “Oh, well, what are you gonna do?” or we can fight back.
And that, to me, is the essence of Jerry McNerney’s Congressional campaign. Now, don’t get me wrong; Jerry is smart, honest, and well-qualified to be a member of Congress. But the real strength of his campaign and the reason for its resonance is that he could be any one of us — the guy who stepped forward and said, “Enough. If nobody else is going to stand up and fight against a corrupt and greedy Congressman, I guess I’ll have to do it. I’m not just going to go about my business and pretend that everything is okay — I’m going to fight back.” That’s why he’s running for Congress; that’s why I’m writing about it; that’s why hundreds of people from within the district and all over the Bay Area are stepping forward to donate money and walk precincts and phone bank and participate in any way they can. We’re tired of being screwed; we’re ready to take our country back.