Pombo Denies Abramoff Ties, Even as Evidence Mounts

| Wed Oct. 11, 2006 5:04 PM EDT

Recently released documents from the Northern Mariana Islands indicate that Richard Pombo's (R-Ca) relationship to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was much cozier than he has let on.

The AP is reporting that previously unseen lobbying records from the Marianas show Abramoff billed for phone calls to Pombo's office in 1996. They also establish that between 1996 and 2001 Abramoff and his associates met with Pombo's staff on more than two dozen occasions.

Pombo's spokesman Brian Kennedy told the AP that those meetings "never happened" and the staff-level contacts were "greatly inflated." Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in a congressional corruption investigation, is "an admitted felon" who can't be trusted, Kennedy said.

As Mother Jones reported in September, Pombo has received at least $31,250 from Abramoff, his associates and clients, and even accompanied him on a delegation to the Marianas in 2004.

Will this influence voters' come November 7? Pombo and his opponent Jerry McNerney are in a tight race for California's 11th congressional district seat; as of last week Pombo held a two-point lead in the polls. Last Thursday, at the first and only debate between the candidates Pombo said of Abramoff "I met the guy two or three times in my whole life--he never once lobbied me on anything."

--Amaya Rivera

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