Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Media, Ethics, and Pombo's Worldview: RV Edition

Pombo has been interviewed by both the CC Times and the Sac Bee about his "business trip" to several National Parks at taxpayer expense. Each paper basically "took Pombo's word for it" that he was undertaking the people's business (along with his wife and three kids) and proceeded to minimize its significance.

Indeed, this matter is small in magnitude but when added to the cavalcade of Pombo's ethical entanglements, more of the forest starts to materialize from the trees. Perhaps its greatest importance is that it provides a window into Pombo's principles which is easy for voters to internalize. A nice lady from Richmond proves this point in her recent letter to the CC Times:

My family has not been able to afford the luxury of a vacation for the last five years. Therefore, I found it offensive Vorderbrueggen was surprised Pombo's wonderful trip with his three children (under the age of 15) could be called a "vacation."
Her letter also lays the smackdown on the CC Times for a "Republican bias". More on that later...

Putting aside the ethical aspects of this affair for a moment, perhaps the most revealing storyline is the profound insight Pombo gained whilst touring some of the most beautiful places on Earth:

He came away from the Mojave National Preserve thinking that the park needs to allow more off-road vehicle use. That preserve was designated by Congress as part of the national park system by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994; Pombo wants to reopen that act and "fix it" to allow more off-road recreation.

He came away from his visit to Yellowstone, the nation's first park, with more concern for preserving winter business for concessionaires - i.e., snowmobile use - than for safeguarding the park itself so as to leave it "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations," as the 1916 law requires.
Let me sum up. I'm maddened by the fact that the media has become our de facto Congressional ethics review panel because the previously professionally run, somewhat non-partisan, House ethics review process has been obliterated by Pombo associate Tom DeLay.

For certain, the media can be a positive force in this area but let's be honest, they are not suited for this task. They risk alienating readers with the mildest of rebukes of either side and thus risk losing money as a business. They have no benchmarks or established standards from which to analyze and pass judgement. They often confuse ethics issues with legal issues. The end result is subjectivity like this:

"A Contra Costa Times investigation of ethical charges leveled at Pombo reveals a more complicated portrait of a singularly dogmatic and calculating lawmaker who stretches the rules but stops short of breaking them."
Smacking the media on these matters is worthwhile to some degree but true reform must start elsewhere. It starts with the voters of CA-11.


Post a Comment

<< Home