On November 28, 2005, Randy Duke Cunningham resigned his seat (CA-50) after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors. On June 6th theres a special election to determine whether Democrat Francine Busby or Republican Brian Bilbray will replace Cunningham. This is a slightly Republican district and according to The Cook Report the race leans Republican.
Republican Incumbents John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter, Jerry Lewis, Richard Pombo, and Dana Rohrbacher occupy the other five seats. Each has been linked to either Jack Abramoff or to military contractor, Brent Wilkes, who admitted paying Cunningham for help landing federal contracts. Each GOP congressman consistently voted with Tom DeLay and strongly resisted any measure to strengthen House ethics rules.
John Doolittle (CA-4) represents a rural area in northeastern California. Hes one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress and through his long association with DeLay and Dennis Hastert has become one of the Deputy whips. Doolittle was implicated in the Abramoff scandal because he received political donations directly from Abramoff and his family ($13,000) and from the Indian tribes he represented. Doolittle also accepted $19,375 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. Recently the California Congressman has been under attack for his practice of paying a 15 percent fundraising commission to a company owned by his wife. In addition, Doolittle is rumored to be under investigation for his ties to the Cunningham scandal. Nonetheless, hes in a Republican district and Cook rates this a likely Republican victory.
Jerry Lewis (CA-41) represents parts of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Hes chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Lewis also had connections to military contractor Brent Wilkes. On January 9th, a Washington public advocacy group asked the Justice Department to initiate an investigation into the relationship between Rep. Lewis and lobbyist Bill Lowery and Mr. Lowerys firm, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. A recent story in the San Diego Union-Tribune asserts that Rep. Lewis, as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for Mr. Lowerys clients. In apparent return, Mr. Lowery, his partners, and his firms clients have donated 37% of the $1.3 million that Rep. Lewiss political action committee has received over the past six years. Hunter represents a solid Republican district.
Richard Pombo (CA-11) represents parts of Contra Costa and San Joaquin Counties, just east of the San Francisco Bay area. Pombo was implicated in the Abramoff scandal because he received political donations directly from Abramoff and his family ($7500) and from the Indian tribes he represented. Pombo also accepted $5200 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. In January the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Pombo one of the thirteen most corrupt members of Congress. Pombo has a dreadful record on environmental issues; as a result the Sierra Club and other environmental advocacy groups have focused on this race. Hes in a marginally Republican district, which Cook says is leaning Republican.
Its remarkable that these six California seats are in play. It remains to be seen whether the Congressional corruption scandals will actually cost the GOP any seats in the House. The two most likely to fall to the Democrats are the former seat of Cunningham and the current seat of Pombo.