In the AP story Tuesday on Abramoff lobbying Pombo, it says:
"On Sept. 10, 1996, Abramoff billed for a discussion with Pombo. Two days later he gave Pombo a $500 donation, the first of what would become $7,500 in campaign contributions. "
Here is the legal definition of bribery:
Bribery n.: the crime of giving or taking money or some other valuable item in order to influence a public official (any governmental employee) in the performance of his/her duties. Bribery includes paying to get government contracts (cutting the roads commissioner in for a secret percentage of the profit), giving a bottle of liquor to a building inspector to ignore a violation or grant a permit, or selling stock to a Congressman at a cut-rate price.So Jack Abramoff gave money ($500) in order to influence a public official (Pombo) in the performance of his duties (voting in Congress). I don't think it is much clearer than that. This is bribery, pure and simple.
Of course, Pombo protests this -- after all, Abramoff (most likely) did not explicitly write a note like "Dear Richard, Here is $500 for voting my way on the Marianas bill. Your friend, Jack." If Abramoff did send him flowers or candy, I am sure we will never hear about it. But we do have a clear chain of causation here. Jack calls Pombo, Jack sends cash and promises other favors, Pombo votes Jack's way, Jack gloats that "We were able to add four conservative Republicans to the block of Democrat opponents".
This went on for years, this Abramoff-DeLay-Pombo circle of corruption, until it all came tumbling down with Abramoff's arrest, DeLay's indictment, and, we all hope, Pombo's defeat at the polls and eventual indictment.
But all this was not new to Pombo, not even in 1996. Two years earlier, in 1994, he was also accused of bribery on a vote involving Monsanto. From Robert Cohen:
Pombo is a crook, and should have been thrown out of Congress in 1994 for taking bribes from Monsanto while considering a bill to label milk and dairy products containing that pharmaceutical giant's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.One thing you can say about Pombo, he has been consistent. Now, all he needs is a sign in his office, "Votes for Sale -- $500 in Committee, $1000 on the Floor". Seems it is easy -- and profitable -- to be a Congressperson. But it looks like all this will end soon for Poor Richard. I just hope he has enough cash left over to pay his legal fees so Annette and the kids can stay on the ranch while he is in jail.
Richard Pombo was a long-time member of the House Dairy, Livestock, and Poultry Committee. In 1994, the approval process for Monsanto's re-combinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) became the greatest controversy in FDA history.
At that time, the Dairy Committee reviewed a proposed law that would have required labels on milk, cheese, or ice cream products containing that genetically engineered hormone. After all, Americans had a right to know what they are eating...right? Wrong. The Dairy Committee stalled the proposed bill until the 1994 elections. When the 1994 session of Congress expired, the bill died. The law was never voted upon. That's how Congress works, folks. A congressman can introduce a bill, and the bill can be sent to a committee, but behind the scenes shenanigans work to deceive the true interests of the American people. The biggest factor influencing members of Congress is the almighty dollar.
I began to investigate milk, milk hormones, and milk politics at about that time. I researched PAC donations, and learned that Pombo had accepted a total of $252,600 in PAC money in 1994. Remarkably, $84,385 was given to him from private companies and groups doing business in agriculture. Talk about buying votes! Even more remarkable was Pombo's relationship with Monsanto. I learned that this man had the audacity to accept money directly from Monsanto while voting on a bill that impacted Monsanto's future and the future of biotechnology. I've called that PAC donation a bribe, and I continue to do so. If Pombo is your California congressman, please let him know that I am calling him a crook. He may sue me. Good. Then America can learn that this man takes bribes.