Pombo-Palooza, Part 2

POMBO-PALOOZA, PART 2….Let’s take a moment to switch gears from one Republican’s unfortunate brush with the great outdoors to another’s. Today’s featured GOP outdoorsman, recently highlighted on our list of “little Tom DeLays,” is congressman Richard Pombo, who decided to take a tour of America’s national parks back in 2003. Was this because Pombo, who chairs the House Resources Committee, is a latter day John Muir? Not quite. As the Wall Street Journal describes it, his tour was more likely a bit of prep work for his subsequent proposal to sell off “15 national parks, monuments, preserves and historical sites, along with naming rights for visitors’ centers and hiking trails, to corporate bidders.”

Charming, no? But whether for good or ill, suspicious readers might be wondering if this was really a research trip at all. After all, it happened in August 2003, Pombo rented an RV for his inspection tour, and he took his family along. Sounds rather vacation-like, doesn’t it? Especially since Pombo himself described it as a vacation at the time. But Pombo is having none of it:

Pombo defended the August 2003 trip on Thursday, saying it was appropriate to charge the $4,935 two-week rental of an RV to the government because of his committee’s role in overseeing the nation’s parks and public lands.

….Pombo insisted that he spent virtually all day talking to the park superintendents and other officials, while his wife and children enjoyed the parks with the other visitors.

“Virtually all day”? Really? And what do the park officials themselves have to say about that? The LA Times reports:

Officials at two of the national parks Pombo said he visited ? Joshua Tree in California and Badlands in South Dakota ? said the congressman never met with them.

“We had set up camping for him and gone to a lot of work and then he did not show,” Pam Livermont, secretary for the park superintendent at Badlands National Park, said Tuesday. “He did not alert any personnel that he wasn’t coming, and we never heard another word from him. We were disappointed.”

The Tracy Press, Pombo’s hometown newspaper, reported that officials at Joshua Tree did not recall him visiting there either.

Care to take a second crack at explaining this trip, congressman?