Beneficiary of tribal donations on watchdog's 'most corrupt' list
November 29, 2005
By Sean Gonsalves [email protected] or 508-888-5454
Cape Cod Times
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Mashpee Wampanoag ties to powerful Republicans went beyond lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- most notably, to U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo.
Pombo, R-Calif., is chairman of the House Committee on Resources, which has budgetary oversight for the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The bureau, among other things, approves and denies federal recognition petitions submitted by American Indian tribes.
Mashpee Wampanoag tribe members donated $12,000 to Pombo's 2004-2005 campaign, only $600 less than Pombo's top donor, the Paskenta Band of Nomiaki Indians, according to the Federal Election Commission records.
Mashpee tribe members outspent Exxon Mobil ($5,000), the National Association of Home Builders ($5,000) and the Farm Credit Council ($4,500) in donations to Pombo's re-election campaign, commission records say.
In September, Pombo was named by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW http://www.citizensforethics.org) as one of the ''13 most corrupt'' people in Congress.
Pombo earned the dubious distinction because, as chairman of the House Resources Committee, he and political action committees that support him have taken donations totaling $221,000 from Indian tribes since 1999, according to the group's report.
The tribal contributions often coincided with House Resource Committee hearings on Indian issues, the group contends.
In 2004, Pombo asked the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend environmental guidelines opposed by the wind power industry without disclosing to agency officials that his parents had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties for wind-power turbines on their 300-acre Central California ranch, according to the group.
Pombo, the group said, stood to gain financially from his parents' wind-power contracts because he owns an interest in his parents' ranch, the group said.
In published reports, Pombo said the allegations were politically motivated because the majority of those on the list were Republicans.
No formal federal ethics charges have ever been brought against him.
A year ago, Pombo sponsored a bill that would have forced the Bureau of Indian Affairs to rule on all federal recognition petitions filed before 1988, which includes the Mashpee Wampanoag petition.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., was a co-sponsor of the bill and the recipient of far smaller Wampanoag campaign contributions.
Tribal Council Chairman Glenn Marshall and Vice Chairman Shawn Hendricks alone contributed $11,500 to Pombo from September 2003 to April 2005, according to the records.
By comparison, the pair contributed $500 apiece to Delahunt's campaign in 2004.
Copyright 2005, Cape Cod Times.