Here's one thing we don't have against the idea of Richard W. Pombo returning to Congress: He'll be a carpetbagger in the Central Valley district where he's planning a comeback. That might not be a high compliment, but at least it doesn't mean he's an incapable candidate.
It's the other things we know about Pombo -- that he's rabidly anti-environment, ethically challenged, overly eager to hand public resources to private corporations -- that worry us and were among the reasons a Democratic challenger was able to oust the seven-term Republican from his reliably GOP seat in 2006. Endorsement season hasn't started yet, but we don't need a campaign to know that Pombo would not contribute anything useful if he rejoined the House of Representatives.
Could he have been bitten by a marmot as a child? Pombo's attacks on environmental protections make it easy to believe he has some kind of personal grievance against nature. He sought to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act, a goal he vows to pursue if elected in a new district. He also proposed selling off 15 national parks and offering federal lands to mining interests at bargain-basement prices. His Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act would have opened huge stretches of the coast to drilling and slashed the royalties that companies pay for shale-oil leases, which could have cost taxpayers billions.
Pombo paid his wife and brother more than $350,000 from his political campaign fund for fundraising and consulting, and, according to the League of Conservation Voters, accepted more than $35,000 from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, although he was never found to have committed any wrongful acts. In 2006, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington listed Pombo as one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress.
This would simply be a sad commentary on a former congressional bad boy if Pombo hadn't managed to garner serious power during the George W. Bush administration. As chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, he came close to fulfilling portions of his anti-environment agenda. The drilling legislation passed the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate.
One of the great things about American democracy is that almost anyone, even an irresponsible ex-legislator who was ultimately rejected by his own constituency, can run for public office. That doesn't mean voters have to cast ballots for him.