Former House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo has joined a lobbying and public relations firm which backed his attempts to rework the Endangered Species Act and open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil drilling.

The seven-term Republican Congressman from Tracy — whom 11th District voters replaced in November with Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton — joins Oregon-based Pac/West Communications as a senior partner "and will focus on strategic consultation, as well as expanding the firm's presence in key markets both nationally and international," the company's news release said.

Pombo, 46, "strengthens our ability to serve clients on a variety of issues, ranging from natural resources and energy to a host of regulatory matters," Pac/West president Paul Phillips said in the release. "Richard's vast knowledge of the political process, his high-level experience in Washington, D.C., and extensive contacts makes for a powerful combination."

Defenders of Wildlife President & CEO Rodger Schlickeisen, whose organization's lobbying arm helped lead the battle to unseat Pombo last year, said he's not surprised to see Pombo land this job "with the special interests because, as far as we're concerned, that's where his heart and his mind resided anyway."

"It does challenge the notion that he kept trying to instill in his constituents ... that he was not a man of Washington, that he had not bought into the establishment, that he was not in bed with the special interests," Schlickeisen said.


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"So, I join a firm that is headquartered in Oregon that specializes in working with grassroots groups, and that proves I am a man of Washington? That is patently ridiculous," Pombo retorted Tuesday night. "And this comes from a man who is headquartered in Washington, who lives in Washington, who rarely ventures out of Washington.

"What I will be doing is primarily working with grassroots groups doing strategy and organizing, looking at a lot of the issues that I worked with in Congress — resource issues, agriculture issues," Pombo added. "What I'm doing really doesn't involve lobbying Congress."

Pac/West executive vice president Tim Wigley is a former timber-industry lobbyist and state Republican Party executive director in New Mexico and Mississippi.

While at Pac/West, Wigley directed the Save Our Species Alliance, which worked "to promote common sense, balanced and scientifically-supported changes" to the Endangered Species Act "to make it more efficient and effective in recovering and saving species at risk." That was the stated goal of Pombo's legislation, which passed the House in 2005 but stalled out in the Senate last year; critics said it would gut the law's protections. The Alliance remains listed among Pac/West's clients.

Wigley also led Project Protect, which lobbied for President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative. Pombo helped steer that package through Congress in 2003; critics saw it as a giveaway to big timber interests. Pombo in 2004 recommended Wigley for the Forest Resources Association's "Forest Activist of the Year" award in November 2004.

And Pac/West Communications last year won a $3 million contract with the state of Alaska to coordinate a campaign for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration; Pombo has supported ANWR drilling.

Pac/West earlier this month hired Pombo's former chief of staff, Steve Ding, as a vice president to launch a Sacramento office. Pombo said he'll split his time between Sacramento and other Pac/West offices. "It's been very nice to be home a lot more," he said. "I've been back to D.C. several times, but it's on my schedule now."

Asked what Pac/West is paying him, he replied with a laugh, "I'm doing OK." And asked whether he might run to regain his seat in 2008, he replied, "I haven't decided on that, that one's still open, but I will be spending a lot more time in California than I was able to before."

Federal law prohibits former members of Congress from lobbying Congress for one year after leaving office; former senior Congressional staffers are banned from lobbying their own former offices or committees for a year.

Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@angnewspapers.com or 510-208-6428. Read the Political Blotter at http://www.insidebayarea.com.