Mariposa & Yosemite

Environmentalists target Pombo with ad

A prominent national environmental organization is making good on its threat to try to stymie Richard Pombo's attempt to return to Congress.

The Defenders of Wildlife -- which played an important role in Pombo's 2006 defeat in the 11th Congressional District -- has bought ads on radio stations across the 19th Congressional District, where Pombo is now seeking the Republican nomination.

"It's just the beginning of our campaign," said William Lutz, senior director of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, the Washington D.C.-based group's political arm. "We know the man. We know his legacy. We know the threat he poses."

From the moment Pombo's name surfaced as a potential candidate to replace retiring Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa, Defenders of Wildlife said it would seek to defeat him.

The radio ads -- which are running on KMJ (AM 580) as well as other stations -- directly attack Pombo's alleged ethical lapses and don't mention environmental issues at all.

The 60-second spot features a man and a woman having a conversation.

"Wow, I remember that guy Pombo," the woman says. "Wasn't he named one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress?" A man responds: "Yeah, a watchdog group named Pombo one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington. And that's saying something."

What they don't do is address or endorse any of Pombo's three challengers for the Republican nomination in the 19th Congressional District -- state Sen. Jeff Denham, former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and Fresno City Council President Larry Westerlund.

Tal Eslick, Pombo's campaign manager, called the ads "the same sort of baseless, unfounded half-truths that we hear the environmentalists use against folks all the time. They understand Richard is best equipped to overturn the very laws they use to go after our way of life in the Central Valley."

Eslick then called on Pombo's opponents to condemn the ads.

But Dave Gilliard, who is running Denham's campaign, instead said the ads "raise very legitimate and serious questions about Richard Pombo's ethical lapses while he was in Congress from a different district."

In 2006, Pombo was beaten by Democrat Jerry McNerney, who spent $2.6 million but who also was boosted by millions of dollars in additional advertising by Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental groups.