Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, has recently inaugurated a weekly email newsletter to keep his constituents "in the loop." The Shrimp Slayer's loop, however, would not be large enough to rope a heavily drugged alley cat. So, we thought we'd somewhat extend the loop to include the Shrimp Slayer's wider circle of friends.
No one among today's elected officials, for example, has a better claim to the title "Mr. UC Merced-- Political Class" than Denny. So we thought we'd read up on how UC is doing these days, because the Shrimp Slayer is working ceaselessly working for UC in Congress. That brought us to remember the academic chair in public policy at UC Merced, endowed by Shrimp Slayer predecessor Rep. Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho. It is always important to set good leadership examples for the young.
In a recent “town hall meeting” stacked with senior citizens who harkened in vain for the “prescription drug” word, Denny introduced another good friend, UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, whose elemental grasp of Valley history begins and ends with the theme: When UC got here! The Shrimp Slayer said he’d spent more time with the Chancellor recently than he had with his wife. Good taste and family values are hallmarks of Denny’s tenure in office.
Then there is Denny's real good friend in Tracy, Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer, with whom Denny teams up from time to time to gut the Endangered Species Act on behalf of their common developer friends and UC, Merced's anchor-tenant developer. So, we thought we'd read up on how Ol' RichPAC's campaign was going against former Rep. Pete "The Elder" McCloskey, Real Republican-Lodi. All this led us to recall The Shrimp Slayer's friends in the Federal Republic of Micronesia.
Returning to the theme of history beginning when UC Merced got here, the campus seems to be operating as a kind of memory wash. Former UC Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, whose compensation package is at the center of the present controversy raging in the state Legislature, was apparently able to stash her son on the UC Merced payroll. And then there’s former UC president David Gardner, a member of the UC Merced Foundation board of trustees, whose golden parachute 13 years ago occasioned the last outbreak of public outrage against UC administrators bilking the public.
Pombo charges taxpayers for vacation
Feb. 9, 2006
In summer 2003, just after he was named chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo loaded the family in an RV for “two weeks on vacation” traveling around the West.
Documents obtained by the Tracy Press show taxpayers covered most of his expenses.
“This August, my family and I rented an RV and set out to explore the West,” Pombo, R-Tracy, wrote in a 2003 article posted on the Resources Committee’s Web site.
“We spent two weeks on vacation, stopping along the way to enjoy the splendor of many of our national parks.”
Pombo was reimbursed $4,935.87 to rent the RV and spent $1,500.51 on a government credit card for “travel subsistence” during a two-week span from July 27 to Aug. 11, 2003, according to a Resources Committee spending ledger obtained by the Press.
A spokesman for the committee, Brian Kennedy, said the RV rental was the only vacation expense covered by taxpayers. The credit card bill referenced in the Statement of Disbursements for the House was for expenses incurred during previous field hearings, he said. House rules dictate “official travel may not be for personal … purposes,” but allows for members of Congress to bring family members along on official trips.
Kennedy defended Pombo’s expenses. He said Pombo spent those two weeks visiting and meeting with officials at 10 national parks, over which his committee has jurisdiction.
“You bet his family was with him, of course,” Kennedy said. “What better way to see and judge the visitor experience of a national park?”
Larry Noble, a former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission, said the trip gives the impression “that members of Congress are out of touch and feel entitled to things the average person doesn’t get,” even though he may have been doing some official business.
“I understand what he’s saying … but it does look like a family vacation, and the taxpayer has a right to ask, ‘Is this the best way to do this?’” said Noble, who is now the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan government watchdog group.
Kennedy said Pombo and his family traveled through California, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, meeting with officials and touring the parks. In an article published on the Resources Committee’s Web site, Pombo said he also visited Colorado.
It is unclear exactly how much of Pombo’s time during the two-week span was spent on official business, but it was “probably a substantial amount,” Kennedy said.
“Frankly, I think it should be refreshing for people to know that Chairman Pombo is the kind of guy who will jump behind the wheel of an RV and drive 5,000 miles to see … and learn about the national parks that taxpayers pay him to oversee,” he said.
No Resources Committee staff members or fellow members of Congress accompanied Pombo on the trip, and Kennedy said he did not know how Pombo’s family occupied themselves while he was in meetings.
By renting an RV and toting along his family, Kennedy said, Pombo likely saved money on hotels and airfare that he would have incurred if he’d traveled alone.
“If the chairman could have loaded the family into a helicopter to go to all of these
meetings and all of these parks for $5,000, he would have,” Kennedy said.
House travel rules require that members reimburse travel expenses for family members
accompanying them on chartered airplanes paid for with government money, but no similar rule exists for RV travel.
The rules also require that personal travel in officially rented vehicles be kept to a minimum and must “not otherwise constitute a significant activity or event.”
Kennedy said Pombo’s travel did not violate these rules.
“The House rules are relatively lax about these types of things,” Noble said. “It’s supposed to be official business, and a number of them (members of Congress) are reluctant to call things official business. This, to me, is really in that questionable area.”
Congressional Democrats have previously accused Pombo of misusing taxpayer funds to pay his top aide to travel between Stockton and Washington, D.C.
Bay Area Reps. George Miller and Ellen Tauscher on Tuesday publicly requested an investigation into the arrangement in which Steve Ding, Pombo’s and the House Resources Committee’s chief of staff, has billed taxpayers more than $87,000 during the last several years for his nearly weekly flights and hotel stays in Washington. The deal also has allowed Ding to collect tens of thousands of dollars in political consulting fees from clients in California.
Pombo has defended that relationship, saying it fosters an outside-the-beltway perspective among his committee staff.
McCloskey for Congress
February 6, 2006
For Immediate Release
"FOLLOW THE MONEY"
In a speech to the Lodi Rotary Club today, former Congressman Pete McCloskey responded to press reports that incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo had raised $1.2 million in campaign funds by year end 2005, as against McCloskey's zero.
"I intend to make Pombo's campaign funding sources and Mr. Pombo's actions in response to those sources a major issue in this campaign," McCloskey said.
He challenged Pombo to respond to the following facts:
1. Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff has recently pled guilty to felonious efforts to
bribe Members of Congress.
2. Mr. Pombo and his PAC, "RICHPAC," have received more money from Abramoff, his wife and clients ($54,500) than any other California congressperson.
3. Mr. Pombo has also received more money (over $500,000) from Indian tribes than any other Member of the House.
4. One of Mr. Abramoff's most lucrative clients was the infamous clothing manufacturing industry in the Marianas Islands, a U.S. trust territory under the jurisdiction of Chairman Pombo's Committee on Resources. The industry, led by one Willie Tan, paid Abramoff millions to fend off legislation which would reform applicable immigration and labor standards to the thousands of young women brought to the Marianas to work in the sweatshops there.
5. Working conditions had become so notoriously bad by 2000 that conservative Senator Frank Murkowski, (R. Alaska) was able to obtain unanimous Senate passage of a Marianas reform bill. The bill upon passage was referred to Pombo's Committee on Resources, then chaired by James Hansen (R-Utah) where it died.
6. Over a two year period Abramoff records reflect he met on at least two dozen occasions with Majority leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) seeking to prevent Marianas reform legislation and on other topics.
7. During an 8-month period in 2000, Mr. Pombo's press secretary and legislative assistant received at least a dozen tickets to Abramoff's private "skybox," on five separate occasions, the tickets being valued at $1,000 each for inside-the-Beltway fundraising purposes.
8. On September 16, 2003, Abramoff's associate Kevin Ring, a former staff person for Congressman John Doolittle, gave Pombo's RICHPAC $1,000. Mr. Ring also gave Mr. Pombo an additional $3,000 between September 13, 2002, and February 18, 2005. In the fall of 2005, Mr. Ring took the 5th Amendment when questioned by Senator John McCain's Committee on Indian Affairs.
9. In January 2004, Mr. Pombo traveled to the Marianas, and on May 18, 2004, received nine campaign contributions from the following residents of the Marianas connected with the garment industry or the government of the Marianas.
Jerry Tan $500
Eloy Inos $500
Juan Baubata $500
Paul Zak $500
Hsia-Ling Lin $2,000
Richard Pierce $1,500
Clarence Tenorio $1,000
Pedro Atalig $1,000
Diego Benevente $500
Total = $7,750
10. In January 2005, Mr. Pombo and the House Republican leadership changed the House Ethics Rules to prevent any further investigation of Tom Delay who had been three times admonished on the House Ethics Committee.
11. As of February 2006, Chairman Pombo has neither considered a bill to implement the Murkowski bill, nor has he responded to repeated requests to investigate the Abramoff influence on either the Marianas reform bill or the Indian casino industry.
"At the very least, Mr. Pombo should explain to his constituents why he has taken so much money from Mr. Abramoff, his clients, and the Indian tribes interested in casino gambling,"
For more information contact:
650 575 9448
US delegation leaves Pohnpei with "first-hand island experience"
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): January 17, 2004 - Congressman Richard Pombo of the United States House of Representative and his Congressional Delegation (CODEL) along with Secretary Gale A. Norton of the US Department of Interior left Pohnpei State with an experience of the island life, "first-hand" during their visit to the seat of the nation.
The welcome for the high-level CODEL was punctuated by the famous heavy rain showers of Pohnpei upon arrival. Mwaramwars and a chorus of songs from the local Head Start - as they waived mini FSM/US flags, continued the display of island-welcome when officials from both State and National Governments greeted the CODEL at the Pohnpei International Airport.
Continued rainfall accompanied their drive to the nation's capitol in Palikir where they met with President Joseph J. Urusemal and Speaker Peter M. Christian of the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia.
President Urusemal welcomed the delegation to Palikir and explained that rain-shower in local folklores, is a good omen.
The President expressed FSM's appreciation for U.S.'s passage of the amended Compact and thanked, especially, the US Congress for its "swift action" on the amended Compact legislation.He also noted the recent establishment of DOI's Honolulu Office to monitor financial assistance under the Compact and expressed FSM's willingness and commitment to making the amended Compact work to the benefit of both nations.
Along the same line, Secretary Norton said the signed Compact signals tremendous opportunities for both nations to "further strengthen our relationship" and that she is "looking forward to working with the FSM, to go forward with the Compact of Free Association, to go forward with the future." …
During the evening's dinner reception at the Cliff Rainbow Hotel, Chairman Pombo echoed Secretary Norton's remarks when he also referenced Specialist Bermanis's sacrifice. He thanked the FSM for their sons and daughters that are serving alongside U.S's own. Chairman Pombo said their visit to Pohnpei afforded the opportunity for members of his delegation to see and experience first-hand the issues which they have been working on from afar.
Secretary Norton said, "it provided a tremendous opportunity to experience the FSM first-hand." … Pombo chairs the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The chairman headed a CODEL that included: Rep. Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa, Rep. Frank Lucas from Oklahoma, Rep. Jeff Flake from Arizona, Rep. Dennis Rehberg from Montana, Rep. Dennis Cardoza from California, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam and a several Congressional staff.
Representing the 11th District of California, Chairman Pombo is serving his sixth term in the House. His personal leadership has been noted as "very instrumental and effective" in the passage of the amended Compact legislation …
Pombo introduces rewrite of Endangered Species Act
Sep 26, 2005 9:17 AM
By Forrest Laws, Farm Press Editorial Staff
Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., introduced his long-awaited rewrite of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, saying it was “time to do better” by the plants and animals the law was designed to protect.
Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, was joined by fellow West Coast Congressmen Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.; Greg Walden, R-Ore.; and George Radanovich, R-Calif., at a press conference announcing the new legislation in Stockton, Calif., Sept. 19.
After the announcement, critics complained the new legislation would cripple the current Endangered Species Act and “punch loopholes in the law on behalf of greedy developers, oil companies and other special interests.” Pombo said the 1973 law simply has not done what it was intended to do...
Former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho Commits Endowment for UC Merced
Merced, CA - Tony Coelho, a former U.S. Congressman who represented California's Central Valley for more than a decade and pioneering advocate for a University of California campus in the region, has committed an endowed chair to the University of California, Merced. A special ceremony will be held this afternoon (Friday, January 25) in Merced to announce the Tony Coelho Endowed Chair in Public Policy and to recognize his longtime commitment to the 10th UC campus.
"For our campus to have a faculty chair bearing the name of Tony Coelho is indeed a privilege," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "He is a visionary leader whose work to promote education, disability awareness, agriculture and many other important issues has improved the lives of millions of Americans. Tony Coelho's dedication to public service will live on in the faculty research and education of future leaders made possible through this endowment." …
SENATORS DEMAND ANSWERS ON UC PAY
Unreported compensation raises ire at panel's hearing
- Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, February 9, 2006
Sacramento -- Members of the state Senate Education Committee expressed annoyance Wednesday and demanded to know why the University of California has failed to fully disclose its pay practices and follow its own policies.
At a contentious hearing, UC President Robert Dynes faced one difficult question after another and offered a personal apology for the university system's failure to meet its obligations to account for the money it gives employees.
"It is with real regret that I have come to acknowledge that we have not always met the standards others hold us to in matters of compensation and compensation disclosure,'' Dynes said. "My ethics are upset by this."
The hearing was one of a series called in response to reports in The Chronicle that the 10-campus system has paid some employees much more than was reported to the public. Dynes is scheduled to testify again before the Senate committee on Feb. 22. An Assembly committee plans to hold its own hearings in late spring.
At Wednesday's session, senators peppered Dynes with questions about golden parachutes offered to former Provost M.R.C. Greenwood and former UC Davis Vice Chancellor Celeste Rose as well as about hidden pay and perks offered to other executives.
In one of the harshest exchanges, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, demanded to know whether any UC executives had resigned or been fired in the wake of the payment revelations.
Dynes noted that Greenwood had resigned, eliciting snickers from the audience.
"We heard about what happened to her," Romero replied, referring to a $301,840, 15-month leave she was given after her resignation as well as her cushion of a $163,800 faculty job at UC Davis. Greenwood resigned in November after UC opened an investigation into the hiring of her business partner and son after questions were raised by The Chronicle.
Romero also asked whether anyone at UC was examining whether any of the mistakes "border on criminality."
"Yes, there are internal investigations,'' Dynes said. UC has previously announced an array of internal audits, though this was the first mention of the possibility that any laws were violated.
In general, Dynes admitted that he had sometimes let the university go astray in its secretive approach to compensation.
"It is perhaps true that at times I have been so committed to competitiveness and excellence that I have not been as mindful of the other responsibilities that come with being steward of this public institution," he said.
Half of the senators on the 12-member committee were outspoken in their criticism, some saying Dynes' apologies and promises of improvements ring hollow considering that UC was in the same situation in 1992.
Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, ticked off a series of reforms recommended to the UC Board of Regents back then by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post.
Dynes conceded that UC has continued to provide several executive perks that Post had urged be eliminated. Those include an executive severance pay plan that UC now says is deferred compensation (and is converting to a retirement plan), an executive auto allowance and a special life insurance policy.
"That was something that was asked of you, and you didn't comply," Speier said.
Dynes said a reporting and monitoring system will be put in place to make sure the reforms "stick" this time.
Under questioning from the senators, UC officials admitted for the first time that they had violated policy in secretly agreeing to give Rose, the former UC Davis vice chancellor, $50,000 and a new job that pays $205,000 a year. That agreement came after Rose, who is African American, threatened to sue for discrimination when she was told to resign. Rose's new job doesn't have any regular duties, and UC promised to keep her on the payroll for two years regardless of whether she does any work.
"This should have been approved by the regents," UC attorney Jeff Blair told the committee. "There was confusion as to who was taking action to get it approved. It was an error."
In other cases, Dynes acknowledged that UC administrators had made exceptions to policy to pay employees additional money or perks. Last month, UC drew fire for an exception granted former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl, allowing him to keep the full $355,000 he earned on a 13-month leave even though he plans to quit to take another job before fulfilling his teaching commitment.
Dynes said he had no idea how often such policy exceptions were granted. Until the audits can be completed, Dynes announced, future policy exemptions for senior managers will require his approval in consultation with the regents.
"I want to see the exceptions to see if there are flagrant violations,'' Dynes said. "I am only guessing at this point, and guessing is not a healthy thing to do."
Critics, however, said the new policy does not go far enough.
"Dynes continues to insist that he will consult, rather than requiring approval by, the regents before making exceptions to new compensation policies. That's an insufficient safeguard," said UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller, who led a faculty drive for an independent investigation into the compensation practices. "It's a sugar-coated version of the status quo."
Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, urged Dynes to impose a salary freeze until the university can finish reviewing and improving its pay practices.
"Why not stop the blatant abuse we have seen and figure it out," Denham said.
Dynes said UC has already frozen executive pay.
"We have had a salary freeze the past three years,'' Dynes said. "I have had no salary increase in three years."
In fact, the UC regents in November approved a retroactive pay raise of 2.5 percent for dozens of senior managers, including Dynes. Dynes' pay, for instance, went up $10,000 to $405,000 as of Oct. 1.
UC spokesman Michael Reese said executive pay had been frozen for three years, despite the recent increases, so "that does not negate the basic point he was trying to make."
UC provost who quit got questionable perk
$125,000 payment for housing possibly violated policy
Todd Wallack, Tanya Schevitz, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, November 11, 2005
…In addition, UC has placed one of Greenwood's underlings, Winston Doby, on paid leave while it investigates whether he did anything improper to help Greenwood's 43-year-old son, James Greenwood, win a paid internship at UC Merced.
Lessons not learned at UC
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
WILL THEY ever learn?
The most depressing aspect of the recent revelations by my Chronicle colleagues Tanya Schevitz and Todd Wallack about the lack of transparency in awarding compensation to top University of California employees is that the university went through a similar nail-pulling experience 13 years ago.
In 1992, the university was thoroughly shaken by disclosures that the Board of Regents, in a series of closed door meetings, had awarded then-UC President David Gardner a "deferred compensation" and retirement package worth close to $1 million.
That included an annual pension of $126,000, adjusted annually for inflation, that Gardner, who chose to retire at age 58, would receive for life.
The revelations came during another period of financial duress for the university. During the three years leading up to the Gardner disclosures, student fees had risen by 85 percent. That was the last time student fees had escalated so rapidly until the most recent round of fee increases -- up 79 percent since 2001.
I covered the ins and outs of the scandal, which included publishing transcripts of a closed-door meeting at which regents schemed how to keep details of Gardner's compensation from the press. (As we later discovered, I and other reporters were waiting right outside the room where the regents brazenly discussed how to keep the information from us).
Revelation upon embarrassing revelation followed -- including how the university bought Gardner's house in Utah in order to facilitate his move to California and ended up losing $111,000 on the deal when it sold it later. Gardner didn't want to live in the president's house in Kensington, so the regents gave him a low-interest loan, plus a generous housing allowance, so he could buy a house in Orinda. It even paid for the property taxes on the Orinda property.
The scandal widened when it turned out that 22 other top officials of the university also received similarly secretive "deferred compensation" packages.
The furor reached its peak when then-Gov. Pete Wilson and Speaker Willie Brown showed up at a tumultuous special meeting of the regents to defend Gardner's severance package.
In his memoir "Earning My Degree," published last year by UC Press, Gardner tried to rewrite history by downplaying the seriousness of the scandal.
He blamed the media for its "unremitting, and unrestrained (mostly inaccurate) news reporting" -- even though he never once requested a correction for any of the dozens of stories I wrote about the furor.
In his memoirs, he paid me a backhanded compliment by describing me as "an intelligent and accomplished journalist." But, in a conspiratorial flight of fancy, he concocts a theory that has no basis in fact by suggesting my reporting was driven or manipulated by Ralph Nader, simply because I knew his sister Laura, an anthropology professor at UC Berkeley.
In his 432-page memoir, Gardner leaves out any mention of a lacerating 1992 report commissioned by the university by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post, at the time perhaps the most respected fiscal analyst in California.
"The manner in which compensation issues have been presented, considered and approved during the last 10 years has been seriously deficient," Post concluded. "The imposition of secrecy (regarding executive compensation) appears to have become commonplace, becoming a matter of convenience rather than principle."
Gardner's memoir also neatly leaves out any reference to a 178-page audit by the state's auditor general, also in 1992, expressing concerns about questionable practices by UC officials, including first-class air travel, using university money to pay for a wedding reception and making charitable contributions using UC funds with no clear benefit for the university.
The auditor rejected the argument that some of these perks were paid for from "private funds." "Because UC exists as a constitutionally based public trust, it is an entity of the state," the auditor wrote. "As such, all of UC's funds are state funds and should be expended with similar regard for UC's responsibilities as a public trust."
After Gardner left, new UC president Jack Peltason introduced a range of reforms that promised more openness in disclosing executive compensation. The university, for example, pledged to provide full details of executive compensation to the Legislature and involve UC faculty in helping to set administrative salaries.
So what happened? Gardner went on to become president of the Hewlett Foundation and chairman of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Over time, the scandal faded in memory, and Gardner was lionized by his peers. A smart new addition to the Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus was named after him.
The transparency promised by the university gradually become more opaque, making a mockery of the "reforms" adopted by the regents -- with the unfortunate results we have seen over the past weeks. As Jeremiah Hallisey, the retired regent who was Gardner's most persistent critic at the time, reflected this week, "If they have to pay these salaries, let's justify it in a public meeting, and let's have transparency."
It's pretty simple. A public university has no choice but to do its business in public.
That is a truism that the University of California has yet to fully embrace. It should not take a lashing from the public and the press every dozen years or so to force it to do so.
Louis Freedberg is a Chronicle editorial writer.
List of SF Chronicle stories on the UC administration pay scandal:
List of execs who got severance
President gets power to boost salaries
Big changes sought in how UC raises pay
Details given on extra pay
Legislative hearing into UC compensation
Ex-provost still on payroll
Freedberg: Lessons not learned at UC
Outrage in Capitol at pay revelations
Editorial: UC's hidden pay
UC refuses to release exec raise list
Student services cut as high-pay jobs boom
Free mansions for people of means
UC piling extra cash on top of pay
Other perks include gifts, travel, parties
Database of highest paid UC employees
UC Merced introduces foundation board of trustees
...The blue-ribbon board consists of several Silicon Valley executives from such companies as Lucent Technologies and Sun Microsystems. Several current and former members of the UC Board of Regents included in the UC Merced Board of Trustees are current UC Regent chairman, John Davies, former chairs Leo Kolligian, Meredith Khachigian and Roy Brophy, current Regent Odessa Johnson, former Regents Carol Chandler and Ralph Ochoa. In addition, UC President Richard C. Atkinson, and Emeritus Presidents David Gardner and Jack Peltason are members of the new board ...