Cut from the same cloth as former Valley congressmen Richard Pombo and Dennis Cardoza, Rep. Devin Nunes, Cowboy-Visalia, has made his way in life by being just smart enough to figure out where the money is -- water -- and corrupt enough to go down the drain. And, as is in the nature of corrupt things, he threatens to bring everything around him down with him. But this is of no concern to Nunes, just as long has the farmers in his district get more water than they deserve regardless of the climate. But will his touching faith in Trump's promises be rewarded?--blj
California Congressman Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, differs from Trump on issues including free trade. Nunes is a supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal Trump pledges to kill.
But Nunes told McClatchy this week that he believes Trump supports Central Valley farmers in their push for water.
“The good thing is, he is more up to speed on water infrastructure than any other president we’ve had,” Nunes said. “Out here, everything is water, water, water.” -- Sean Cockerham, Sacramento Bee, Nov. 11, 2017
When you look at Nunes’ service in Congress since he was first elected in 2002, he is a paper tiger – not someone with the fortitude to serve the people and get to the bottom of something as serious as the Trump administration’s friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia before and after the 2016 election. -- Fresno Bee Editorial, Feb. 17, 2017
Nunes’ intelligence obligations Trumped by loyalty to president
The Editorial Board
Devin Nunes has risen to prominence in the House of Representatives by cultivating close relationships with powerful Republicans and conservative talking heads, and by portraying himself as someone who fearlessly pursues the truth.
We know now that the Tulare congressman’s bold pursuit of truth comes with an asterisk. He will shine a bright light into dark corners on behalf of San Joaquin Valley farmers. But when there is the potential to embarrass an ally such as President Donald Trump, his flashlight suddenly is out of batteries.
This is the only logical explanation for why Nunes, who is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, would defend Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. This also explains why Nunes is more upset about leaks from the intelligence community than about Flynn reportedly discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia before Trump took office.
When you look at Nunes’ service in Congress since he was first elected in 2002, he is a paper tiger – not someone with the fortitude to serve the people and get to the bottom of something as serious as the Trump administration’s friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia before and after the 2016 election.
In 2009, Nunes called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resign after Schwarzenegger failed to demand that President Barack Obama turn on the Delta pumps during a water rally.
In 2010, during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s cable television show, Nunes compared the Obama administration’s water allotment to Central Valley farmers to the murderous regimes of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
In 2011, Nunes spent about $100,000 on Fresno area television commercials attacking Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her positions on water. The speculation was that he might run against Feinstein in 2012 – a choice that would have taken considerable courage in light of the long odds against him, his safe congressional seat and the political capital he had accumulated with Speaker John Boehner and his successor, Paul Ryan.
In 2014, Nunes made national news again by calling tea party Republicans “lemmings with suicide vests” for shutting down the government over opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Nunes’ assessment was accurate, but it was hardly brave. He was carrying water for the embattled Boehner, who rewarded Nunes by making him chair of the House Intelligence Committee in 2015.
“The committee’s work is vital because strong congressional oversight of the intelligence community is critical for our national defense posture,” Nunes said at the time.
“Vital,” it turns out, is conditional when used by Nunes. For example, he had this to say about Hillary Clinton last summer:
“The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton has revealed ‘extremely careless’ handling of classified information by Clinton and her aides, and their communications may have been intercepted by hostile actors. This sort of irresponsibility can directly jeopardize U.S. national security and put people’s lives at risk.”
Then a week before the Nov. 8 election, Nunes sent FBI Director James Comey a letter seeking more information on Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
Nunes, of course, wanted to know everything about Clinton, her missteps and potential missteps. But now he has little to no curiosity about the serious allegations involving the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia. Know, too, that Nunes was instrumental in raising more than $1 million for Trump’s presidential campaign and he was a member of the Trump transition team.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the Senate affirmed last week their commitment to conduct a legitimate investigation into Flynn’s dealings via the Senate Intelligence Committee that is now examining allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 elections.
Nunes? He’s steaming mad about leaks to reporters and Flynn’s forced resignation.
Like we said, the congressman – despite all of his fire-breathing rhetoric – is nothing more than a paper tiger.
Valley water challenges are in GOP’s hands now
By The Editorial Board
We don’t expect the anonymous folks responsible for the anti-Jim Costa signs along I-5 and the Valley’s highways to tear them down, now that the Fresno Democrat has won election to the House of Representatives for the seventh time.
Costa is the object of the Valley’s right-wing wrath on two fronts: water and high-speed rail. Never mind that Costa himself is a farmer and needs irrigation water for his almond orchards. Much of his time is consumed with advocating for reliable water deliveries to growers on the west and east sides of the Valley.
And, yes, Costa has pushed for high-speed rail since his days in California’s Legislature. But, as The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol columnist, Dan Walters, reported Wednesday, our state’s ambitious high-speed rail project might be destined to become a rail modernization program instead.
That means that the $68 billion estimated price tag could shrink to the original $9.95 billion approved by voters – although Dan Richard, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told an editorial board member later Wednesday that the full-scale project is still on.
But potentially big changes are not limited to high-speed rail. Providing more water for farmers is a totally Republican challenge now. Failure to deliver no longer can be blamed on the closest Democrat: President Barack Obama, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Costa.
Donald Trump, who pledged to help Valley farmers during his two campaign visits here, soon will occupy the White House. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, a bulldog on water, is an executive member of Trump’s transition team. The incoming administration also has appointed a Westlands Water District lobbyist, David Bernhardt, to head the Interior Department transition team that will make recommendations on policies and personnel.
Wait, there’s more powder in the arsenal.
For the first time since 2003-06, there will be a Republican in the White House and Republican majorities in the House and Senate. If you’re wondering what was accomplished to add Valley irrigation water in that era, the answer is practically zilch. Why? The Bush administration did not want to spend the money – not with the Iraq War putting America deeply in debt – and Bush subscribed to the political adage that folks inside the Beltway best not involve themselves in western water battles.
Trump, however, is a political maverick who plays by his own rules. He has promised to put people back to work and improve the business climate with a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan. He additionally has promised to “complete projects faster and at lower cost through significant regulatory reform and ending needless red tape.”
With Nunes and Bernhardt ensconced inside Trump’s circle of trust, we can envision several scenarios that would be favorable for Valley agriculture and therefore be favorable for the Valley economy. Surely a small percentage of the president-elect’s trillion-dollar plan could be earmarked for dams at Temperance Flat above Friant and the planned Sites Reservoir in Northern California.
Roadblocks remain, however, to increasing irrigation deliveries absent dam construction. There are the Endangered Species Act (signed by Richard Nixon in 1973) and subsequent legal rulings that make it difficult to bring water to the Valley at the expense of trying to save salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt. And there are powerful urban and agricultural water districts outside the Valley that want to hold onto what they have now.
We wish the Republicans good luck. Heaven knows that the California drought and regulatory restrictions have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of Valley prime ag land, resulting in lost wages for people in cities and rural communities. Obama talked a good game about helping rural areas, but never delivered on his promises.
We hope it doesn’t come to pass, but if the anticipated GOP efforts to secure more water fail to bear fruit, will we see signs in 2018 along our roadways blaming Trump, Paul Ryan and Nunes for letting farmers down?
Not on your life.
Westlands now-ex-lobbyist has been, and maybe still is, part of Trump team
Breaking news, insight on the Valley's political movers and shakers
Breaking news, insight on the Valley's political movers and shakers
A Westlands Water District lobbyist who was leading the Trump transition team’s Interior Department planning has dropped Westlands as a client, though his transition responsibilities remain unclear.
Meanwhile, a former staffer to onetime San Joaquin Valley Congressman Richard Pombo has taken charge of Trump’s Energy Department transition, giving it some Western swing.
With lobbyists suddenly finding themselves in disfavor with the broader Trump transition operations, David Bernhardt of the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck used a filing last Friday to declare he was no longer representing the nation’s largest water district.
The Brownstein Hyatt firm reports having been paid $260,000 by Westlands this year.
A former Interior Department solicitor, Bernhardt first registered as a Westlands lobbyist in April 2011. Since then, his firm reports having been paid $1.1 million by Westlands. His departure does not leave the 600,000-acre water district disarmed; two other D.C.-based lobbying firms are still registered on Westlands’ behalf and have been paid a total of $240,000 since January.
Bernhardt’s withdrawal from Westlands more or less coincided with his being replaced as leader of the Interior Department transition operations by David Domenich, another former Interior Department official. It followed a purge of some lobbyists from transition teams and it came on the heels of Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, floating an amendment to block former Westlands lobbyists and employees from overseeing a Westlands irrigation drainage plan if they were to join the Interior Department.
Huffman did not disguise the fact that his amendment last week drew attention to Bernhardt’s role.
Bernhardt referred questions about the status of his Interior Department transition work, if any, to the Trump transition press office, which did not respond.
Tom Pyle, the president of the American Energy Alliance, now heads the Trump Energy Department transition team, E&E News reported. From 1993 to 1997, Pyle worked for Pombo, a Tracy Republican who chaired the House Resources Committee, and Pyle then served as legislative director for Mariposa Republican George Radanovich.
The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, whose directors have included the director of federal relations for Koch Industries, a firm for which Pyle also once lobbied.