GOP Rep. Richard Pombo’s Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney has called on his opponent to return campaign contributions from Alaska oil company executives under federal investigation for alleged influence peddling in their firm’s home state legislature.
FBI agents, according to the Associated Press, raided the offices of several Alaskan state legislators last week in an investigation into the dealings between Veco Corp., its top executives and lawmakers.
A copy of one of the search warrants, the wire service said, links the probe to negotiations involving a recently signed Alaska oil production tax and natural gas pipeline contract.
The investigation has not been linked to Congress but McNerney said Pombo should return the money.
U.S. Senate GOP candidate Mike McGavick of Washington State returned $14,000, his campaign announced this week.
Veco Corp. executives had contributed $15,312 to Pombo and his political action committee between 2003 and April of this year, according to data provided by the Times’ campaign finance analysis service, Dwight Morris & Associates.
“I think all these questions underscore the need for stronger ethics rules in Congress, and reform of our campaign finance laws,” McNerney said in a release. “A first start in that effort would be for Congressman Pombo to return the money that he’s received from Veco.”
The League of Conservation Voters also called for Pombo to give back the cash.
“We just hope Rep. Pombo doesn’t get a sunburned palm from having it open so often,” said l President Gene Karpinski. “Here’s another … example of how he has abandoned the 11th District in California and become a puppet of Big Oil. As working families back home struggle with record high energy prices, Rep. Pombo sits in Washington allowing himself to be showered with more special interest cash than virtually every other member of Congress. “
Pombo returns all contributions from donors in serious trouble, said the congressman’s campaign manager Carl Fogliani. The lawmaker gave to charity contributions from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“We haven’t looked into the Veco case yet but we’ll be watching it,” Fogliani said.
Fogliani characterized McNerney’s request as yet another in a string of “attacks from a desperate candidate who is looking for any angle.”
Anti-Pombo forces have for months hammered the congressman for taking large contributions from oil and energy companies at the same time he pursues opening up more areas of the country to oil and gas drilling.
In this election cycle, oil and gas interests have been Pombo’s fifth-highest source of campaign money with contributions of $117,340 through Aug. 7, according to Opensecrets.org.
Casinos and gambling topped the list, followed by real estate, political action committees and food processing.
Given Pombo’s ideology and his role as the chairman of the House Resources Committee, the source of his contributions is not unusual or unexpected.
Special interests on both sides of the political aisle commonly contribute to the candidates they hope will advance their agendas.
Veco Corp. executives have contributed $300,000 to mostly Republican members of congress and their political action committees since 2003.
But critics say special interest money has a lock on Congress at the public’s expense and they frequently point to Pombo as a prime example of the problem. They hope the public’s low opinion of Congress will translate into a defeat in November for Pombo and Republicans all over the country.