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Can Congressional Bribe-Taking be Good
for You and the Environment?
Crook Becomes Chair of House Resource Committee

by Robert Cohen

Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA) is the new chairman of the powerful House Resource Committee.

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.

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.

What behind-the-scenes political maneuvering and intrigue resulted in Pombo's longshot award as committee chairman? There were other, more qualified candidates. The Monsanto/Pombo connection should make headline news, but today's Bush White House has become the East Coast extension of Monsanto's St. Louis headquarters. For more on the Monsanto connection to Washington read www.notmilk.com/pelican.html

Bribery is defined as the act or practice of giving or accepting money or some other payment with the object of influencing the action or judgment at a parliamentary hearing or other election. During the 2000 election cycle, Pombo accepted over $450,000. The dairy industry contributed $17,100, and groups with agriculture interests "donated" more than double the 1994 amounts. Now, Pombo oversees America's "resources." What does that mean for our environment?

Pombo is no environmentalist. As a congressman, he has sponsored legislation to repeal pesticide legislation and has been an outspoken critic of the endangered species act.

Pombo runs his family's Tracy, California beef and dairy factory farm. Factory farms pollute waterways. Does the environment stand a chance? Tip: Don't drink the water downstream of Pombo's farm.

Pombo has pledged to never accept a dollar of government subsidies for his dairy operations. But my review of records kept by EWG.org reveals that over the past six years the powerful Pombos of Tracy, California have combined to collect more than $193,000 in wheat and barley subsidies. Uncles and cousins, perhaps? Sixty-three percent of those dollars were paid in 2001 (over $121,000).

The Pombo family even received $5,677 worth of barley subsidies. Does the average American eat even one cup of barley per year, or is most of it brewed to manufacture beer? USDA pays the Pombos barley subsidies? Amazing!

Pombo's House Resource Committee has jurisdiction over 700 million acres of public lands, and will be sending bills to Congress affecting energy development. Don't bet on windmill technology.

For every human who occupies planet Earth, there shall be four tons of carbon dioxide gas added to Earth's atmosphere. That will contribute up to 24 billion tons this year alone. Carbon dioxide gases multiply that "greenhouse effect" known as global warming. Global warming is melting our polar ice caps, and has created the highest level of carbon dioxide in 400,000+ years (according to ice core samples). Four hundred nuclear reactors will create over 20 million pounds of dangerous radioactive waste. Where do we safely dispose of that which can kill for thousands of years? Pesticides and petrochemicals poison our air, and delete the number of species of wildlife occupying our planet.

Here is what Earth Island Journal wrote about Pombo: "The Washington Post reported that Rep. Richard Pombo's Regulatory Fairness and Openness Act of 1999 was 'almost a word-for-word draft developed by a coalition of pesticide manufacturers agricultural interests and food processors.' The Post revealed that Jellinek, Schwartz & Connolly Inc., the consulting firm that helped write the Pombo bill, 'employs a number of former senior managers of the EPA,' including five former officials involved in the regulation of pesticides and toxic substances."

As our wetlands disappear and our streams become undrinkable, we need honorable leaders willing to act morally and ethically to do what is right. Sadly, the one individual wielding the power to change things for the betterment of all, Richard Pombo, is not such a person.

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