Environmentalists gird for anti-Pombo battle

In the waning days of summer, environmentalists are girding up for an all-out fall offensive against Rep. Richard Pombo’s re-election bid in Congressional District 11.

It’s conceivable that environmental organizations will spend as much or more money on anti-Pombo initiatives than his Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney.

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund now has seven full-time campaign organizers in its Pleasanton office and has plans to hire three more.

The group has produced anti-Pombo TV and radio ads and held a joint press conference this week with Moveon.org to release a report on the cost of the Iraq War to residents in the district. ($974 million and counting.)

The two groups have launched what they call the “Caught Red-Handed” campaign, intended to highlight what they consider Pombo’s ill-advised positions and unethical actions. They’ve been following Pombo around the district during the congressman’s summer break from Washington, D.C., wearing large, foam rubber red hands.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have formed a new 527 committee, named after the IRS designation for political groups, called the Ocean Champions Voter Fund. Its executive director is David Wilmot, a former director of the National Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Program.

The Ocean Voter Fund has produced two mailers in opposition to Pombo’s bill, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, (H.R. 4761), which would allow states to authorize oil and natural gas drilling between 50 and 100 nautical miles from shore.

But the green wave had a misstep this week.

The League of Conservation Voters fired off a rousing e-mail this week that denounced Pombo’s appearance in Montana at an immigration hearing of the House Resources Committee, of which he is the chairman.

“While we’re glad to see Rep. Pombo deep in Montana listening to Montana voters, we’re quite sure he actually represents the 11th District of California,” the statement read.

The league has named Pombo one of its “Dirty Dozen 2006,” a group of candidates they have targeted. Since 1996, the league says it has helped defeat 28 of the 49 anti-environment candidates.

There’s only one problem: Pombo was never in Montana. He’s been at home in his district.

“Mea culpa,” said League spokesman Chuck Porcari. “Pombo was on the schedule to go to Montana and we should have checked to make sure he went.”

But Porcari says the premise of the league’s message remains true.

“Pombo spends more time looking out for the interests of his campaign funders than those of his constituents,” he said.

Pombo and his advocates vigorously disagree, of course.

On the surface, all this anti-Pombo money helps McNerney, right?

Maybe. McNerney has far less money than Pombo and his advocates welcome anything that helps soften the well-funded incumbent.

On the other hand, Pombo’s campaign staffers repeatedly discount the greenies’ efforts as a bunch of out-of-town liberals trying to tell the good folks of Congressional District 11 how to vote.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen