The ‘Marlboro Man’ Returns to Ruffle Green Feathers


He’s baaack!

You’ve all heard of Richard Pombo, right? For 14 years, he represented a real-life version of the smoke monster from Lost to environmentalists everywhere. The Tracy, CA cattle rancher was even given a cute nickname by President George W. Bush: “The Marlboro Man.” From 1993 to 2007 Pombo represented the 11th Congressional District, which runs from Morgan Hill to Danville along the east side of I-680, including farm towns like Manteca and Lodi.

So why is he so toxic?

Pombo introduced bills to expand offshore oil drilling (“Drill, baby drill!”), rewrite the Endangered Species Act (“Die, Bambi, die!”) and increase logging on public lands (“Fell, baby, fell!”). He even advocated more commercial whale hunting (I guess dolphins and baby seals weren’t big enough game), and infamously that environmental regulation “owes more to communism than to any other philosophy.” Seems reasonable. I could swear the last time I went hiking that the wind in the willows seemed to be whispering Marxist propaganda at me.

Then came 2006. Environmentalists spent more than $1 million to help Democrat Jerry McNerney, a former wind energy executive, upset the rootin’ tootin’ pollutin’ Marlboro Man. But this week it appears that Pombo will be coming out on top and reinvigorating his political career – and worse, his political agenda. He’s running in the Republican primary in what may be California’s hottest congressional race of the June 8 election.

His district will include, wait for it, Yosemite National Park. That sound you’re hearing is a thousand woodland creatures screaming collectively.

Pombo and the other three candidates, state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced; former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson; and Fresno City Councilman Larry Westerlund, have similar positions on the issues. They all have angled for lower taxes, an overturn of President Barack Obama’s health care law, and new rules to waive the Endangered Species Act to allow more water to be pumped to farmers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Can’t evolution of flora and fauna be stifled by the law? What good is lawmaking anyway if it can’t put limitations on everything, even nature?

The Stetson-donning Pombo, has stated that if elected, he’d not only start with 14 years seniority, but with insight into how Congress works, particularly when it comes to water and wildlife laws.

Here’s something to chew on: If the GOP wins back the House in November, Pombo has said that by January he could be chairman again of the powerful House Natural Resources Committee. Perfect!

“This is a tight race,” he said. “The state, the Central Valley, doesn’t have a lot of time. We’re in trouble. We need somebody who is going to be effective immediately. That’s what I bring to the table.”

What are greenies doing about this? Not much, I’m afraid. (Really, with this kind of threat to the environment, how can anyone not be afraid?) The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has spent around $65,000 on radio ads calling Pombo “another corrupt politician.” (Been there, done that, guys.) The Humane Society Legislative Fund has distributed thousands of mailers – which is kind of counter-intuitive if the mailers are not printed on recycled paper, which you just know Pombo and his ilk will call out. And the League of Conservation Voters put Pombo on its “Dirty Dozen List,” normally reserved for sitting members of Congress – do they not realize that The Dirty Dozen is the title of a movie starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland – precisely the kind of “man’s men” that deems the classification a compliment?

“Having Pombo represent a district that includes Yosemite National Park is like electing Godzilla as mayor of Tokyo,” said Warner Chabor, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. No, Warner, it’s not. Godzilla was a stranger in a strange land. Richard Pombo is a danger in endangered land.

During the campaign, he has caught controversy for once taking money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and also for billing taxpayers $5,000 after taking his family in 2003 on an RV trip of national parks. I mean, come on. Californians, when you vote in this election next week, take a look outside your window and hum the “This Land is Your Land” tune. When you do that, remember that those lyrics are little more than Communist what’s-mine-is-yours propaganda. Do you like the view from your den? Enjoy it now, because it’s about to become Marlboro country.