The F in California water policy

...the first truth is that the liberty of democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way to sustain an acceptable standard of living. -- President Frankin Delano Roosevelt, "Recommendations to the Congress to Curb Monopolies and the Concentration of Economic Power" (April 29, 1938), in Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges, 2009, p.177.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
Big Ags Power Couple Banking On Brown, Feinstein
The Resnicks Manipulate Water Policy with Big Campaign Contributions
by Dan Bacher
February 16, 2010 -- Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon who owns 115,000 acres of farmland in Kern County, appears to be putting his bets on Jerry Brown as the winner of the gubernatorial race in the November election - even though Brown hasn't officially declared himself as a candidate.
On November 11, 2009, Resnick and his wife, Lynda, the co-owner of the giant Paramount Farms and Roll Corporation, wrote four checks totalling $50,000 for the Brown campaign.
The donations that the Resnicks made to Brown to date exemplify the enormous political influence of Resnick and other water barons exert over California water politics. The Resnicks are the largest tree fruit growers in the world.
Delta advocates fear that campaign contributions from the Resnicks and other big water interests could heavily influence Brown's positions on the peripheral canal, the construction of more dams and the November $11.1 billion water bond. They also fear the Resnicks could pressure Brown to support legislative and administrative attacks on federal plans protecting Delta smelt and Central Valley salmon.
The Resnicks and executives of their companies have donated $3.97 million to candidates and political committees since 1993, mostly in the Golden State, a California Watch review of public records shows, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, December 6, 2009.
Roll International, one of the largest private water brokers in the U.S., makes millions of dollars in profit off marketing subsidized public water. Through a series of subsidiary companies and organizations, Roll International is able to convert Californias water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder, according to Yasha Levine, in How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity are Hijacking Our Water, in an (article) published in a number of publications.
Resnick was heavily involved in the creation of Kern County Water Bank a controversial underground water storage facility in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The Westside Mutual Water Company, owned by Resnick, now owns 48 percent of the bank. One of the reasons why Central Valley reservoirs were drained so low over the past few years was to fill the water bank and southern California water reservoirs.
The Resnicks have also written big checks to the campaigns of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and presidential candidates from both parties in the 2008 election. They contributed a total of $271,990 to Schwarzeneggers campaign coffers. They havent contributed to the Republican candidates for Governor, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner yet, but dont be surprised if they do.
In response to my emailed questions about Brown's positions about the peripheral canal, new dams, the water bond and the biological opinions, I received the following response from "Ned," a staffer from Jerry Brown 2010.
"Thank you for your email," "Ned" stated. "While Jerry is considering a potential run for Governor, he is not a declared candidate. He has said that he will make a decision on the Governor's race by the filing deadline in March, until that time he is focused on his job as Attorney General. Should he declare a run for Governor, he'll begin to address all the issues and concerns that Californians will find important in choosing their next Governor."
Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), quipped about Resnicks contributions to Brown and others. Resnick is an equal opportunity contributor to candidates seekers. He gives money to everybody it doesnt matter if theyre Republican, Democrat or the Anti-Christ, hell try to buy their votes.
For Brown to say that he doesnt have a position on the issues and then to accept major contributions from a guy involved heavily in water politics like Resnick is highly disingenuous, said Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta. The contribution to Brown is a prime example of how big agribusiness influences both political parties.
Brown signed the original legislation that authorized the original peripheral canal bond in 1982, but voters overwhelmingly defeated the canal at the ballot box that November.
Brown hasnt indicated his position now on the canal and new dams, but the other candidates have. Meg Whitman is a strong supporter of the peripheral canal, more dams, and increased Delta pumping.
She acknowledged the humanitarian disaster resulting from 35-percent unemployment in some west valley towns and the threat to a region that grows a huge portion of the nations food, according to Whitmans Website, reporting on her visit to Fresno on May 29, 2009. ( As governor, she said she would stick with her conviction that saving jobs takes precedence and would use emergency powers to order more pumping from the Delta. In the longer term, she supports more above- and below-ground storage facilities and the construction of a peripheral canal in addition to conservation efforts.
Poizner is also a big backer of the peripheral canal. In an interview with the Bakersfield Californian on April 30, 2009, he stated, I do support more above-ground storage and I do support more water conveyance systems to get the water from where it is to where it needs to go, without completely destroying the delta.
Obama Administration Convenes Panel at Resnicks Request
The recent National Academy of Sciences Delta Panel held in Davis from January 24-28 illustrated the influence of the Resnicks money upon political decisions. Because of a letter that Stewart Resnick wrote to Senator Diane Feinstein, Feinstein pressured the Obama administration to conduct the review of the biological opinions protecting Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt.
In the letter of September 4, Resnick claimed that the biological opinion to prevent endangered salmon and smelt from becoming extinct was "exacerbating the state's severe drought" because it reduced the water available to irrigate farmland. He claimed that "sloppy science" by federal fishery agencies had led to "regulatory-induced water shortages." "I really appreciate your involvement in this issue," he stated.
The administration invited representatives of corporate agribusiness, including Resnicks Astroturf group, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, and Southern California water districts to testify, but they invited no representatives of recreational fishing groups, commercial fishing organizations, Delta farming groups, California Indian Tribes and environmental justice communities, the people most impacted by fish collapses.
The NAS Panel is a typical example of the pay to play corruption endemic to California and U.S. politics. The Resnicks and associates have contributed $29,000 to Feinstein and $246,000 more to Democratic political committees during years when she has sought re-election.
The Resnicks and other corporate agribusiness interests, southern California land speculators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are engaged in an intense Astroturf campaign to weaken pumping restrictions protecting threatened and endangered species under the federal biological opinions for Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales.
They are also pushing for the approval of a water bond that, combined with the water policy package passed by the California Legislature in November, creates a clear path to the construction of the peripheral canal or tunnel and Temperance Flats and Sites reservoirs.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who received $15,600 for his 2010 campaign from the Resnicks on July 30, 2009, strong-armed the water package through the Legislature in spite of strong opposition from his constituents and environmental, fishing and Delta farming groups.
The canal will cost $23 billion to $53.8 billion to build at a time when California is in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression - and the budgets for teachers, game wardens, health care for children and state parks have been slashed.
Unfortunately, you can expect political influence by corporate giants like the Resnicks to increase even more, due to the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision that blocks bans on corporate spending for political candidates.
For a complete list of Resnicks contributions, go to
Dem Sell-out Dianne Feinstein Attempts End-Run to Hand California Water to Billionaire Farmers...Yasha Levine
Feinstein is trying to ram through a massive transfer of public water into the private pockets of a clique of billionaire corporate farmers.
California's Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein showed Californians who she really serves this past Thursday, when news emerged that she was trying to ram through a massive transfer of precious water out of the hands of millions of state residents, and into the private pockets of a clique of billionaire corporate farmers.
 Here's how the San Francisco Chronicle described the swindle:
Feinstein wants to attach the proposal as an amendment to a fast-tracked Senate jobs bill. She is pitching the plan as a jobs measure to address the economic calamity in the Central Valley. It would increase farm water allocations from 10 percent last year to 40 percent this year and next, an amount that farmers say is the bare minimum they need.
Bay Area Democrats were livid, accusing Feinstein of concocting the plan in secret, upending fragile water negotiations that Feinstein has supported and pitting California's Central Valley against its coast.
They were right to be upset. The water transfer would decimate Northern California's already fragile ecosystem, threaten endangered species of fish and decrease its scarce drinking water supply.
Water is a sacred issue in California that one day will surely lead to a North-South showdown that could get ugly. Any major change in the state's water policy is so fraught with danger and consequences, that it makes negotiations over how to divide it a long and difficult process. In our imperfect democratic system, this is how we resolve the most difficult problems we face, when different communities have so much at stake. Feinstein apparently decided that democracy wasn't in her interests--or the interests of the rich corporate farmers she serves--so she is trying to circumvent the whole process by sneaking through legislation before anyone can figure it out. For Californians, it was an act of treason, putting the interests of Big Agro above the needs of millions of people who think she represents them. Feinstein was born and raised in San Francisco, where she rose to political prominence; now, she's screwing her hometown region most of all.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, attacked Feinstein's move: "Best I can see, she's making a decision that jobs in the Bay Area and Northern California and the Peninsula south of San Francisco aren't as important as jobs in the Central Valley [which has a fraction of the Bay Area's population]."
Feinstein's sneakiness has something to do with serving Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire and one of the richest men in California. Resnick owns Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful, pesticide manufacturer Suterra and Paramount Agribusiness, the largest farming company in America and the largest pistachio and almond producer in the world. Resnick is also the brain behind a little-known water privatization scheme that brought Enron-style deregulation and privatization to California's water market and made him one of the largest, if not the largest, private water brokers in America. He also happens to be friend and major contributor to Feinstein's political career.
Lately he's been putting pressure on the Senator to badger the Obama administration into loosening environmental regulations and releasing more water to California's farmers. Feinstein complied, even handing a letter written by Resnick directly over to the White House. News of this sleazy influence-peddling sparked a closer look at Feinstein's dealings with Resnick:

Wealthy corporate farmer Stewart Resnick has written check after check to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s political campaigns. He’s hosted a party in her honor at his Beverly Hills mansion, and he’s entertained her at his second home in Aspen.
And in September, when Resnick asked Feinstein to weigh in on the side of agribusiness in a drought-fueled environmental dispute over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, this wealthy grower and political donor got quick results, documents show.
Thanks to his generous relationship with Dianne Feinstein, a corporate farmer is successfully crusading against environmental preservation in California.
Feinstein wasn't bothered a bit by the negative press. Anyone who followed her senate career knows she is the queen of insider relationships, marrying politics with big business, and completely in character for a person who married into the world of ruthless businessmen, bankers and corporate sharks.
Her husband of 30 years, Richard Blum, is a classic cutthroat corporate raider who made billions in hostile takeovers, buying up companies, then stripping and selling off their assets and skipping away with the profits. Blum kept some infamous company, including junk bond conman Michael Milken, who was jailed for his crime. Blum has been the subject of several media investigations into how he has profited handsomely from his wife's political power.
In one of the scandals, Feinstein created a law that happened to steer a lot of easy taxpayer money toward her husband's business:
On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband's real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.
Then there was an even bigger scandal linking Feinstein to war profiteering in Iraq:
As chairperson and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee from 2001 through the end of 2005, Feinstein supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars a year for specific military construction projects. Two defense contractors whose interests were largely controlled by her husband, financier Richard C. Blum, benefited from decisions made by Feinstein as leader of this powerful subcommittee.
A crooked politician like Feinstein prefers doing deals like this out of the public eye, just like her corporate raider husband, so her attempt to secretly force through an unpopular law onto her constituency is just business as usual. Republicans sneer at her for being a San Francisco liberal, but her actual record shows that she's about as much a liberal as Paul Bremer, privatizing by the closest thing to a decree, while talking up democracy. What's good for the people does not matter. It's all about stripping public wealth and privatizing state assets for maximum profit--so long as it goes to her husband's friends.
Stories like these are why so many progressives are disillusioned with the Democrats and the entire American system.