Stateside With Rosalea: Stop! Water thief!

Published: Mon 7 Dec 2009 05:02 PM
Stateside With Rosalea Barker
Stop! Water thief!
When California’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, travels to Copenhagen this week to participate in Subnational Day at the UN Climate Change Conference, he and his support staff may be doing so at the expense of a wealthy business owner who contributes money to the Governor’s travel fund through the nonprofit California State Protocol Foundation. I say “may be” because 1) this morning it is impossible to get to the foundation’s website, and 2) the money all goes into a general pot. This same donor also recently contributed $20 million to endow an institute at Caltech for the study of energy innovation, climate change and environmental sustainability.
According to the most recent filing available on the Internet of the CSPF’s IRS Form 990, the organization’s primary exempt purpose is to “lessen the burden of government by relieving the State of California of its obligations to fund and facilitate official state and international protocol events.” But the foundation has been criticized in the past—notably in this reposting of a 2007 LA Times article on—of simply enabling special interest groups to go under cover to either achieve personal influence with the governor, or become part of any state-funded junkets overseas, especially those to do with trade.
If you’ll bear with the forms for a minute, this one filed in October shows how the sleight of hand to get around California’s Fair Political Practices Commission disclosure rules works. The Governor’s Office received $4121 from the California State Protocol Foundation in September this year to pay for the airfare of “individuals (non-state employees) who worked at the 2009 CeBit event” in Germany last January.
Do we know who gave the money to the CSPF? No, because they don’t have to report donors unless those donors earmarked their contribution for a particular official. Do we know who got a free trip to Germany? No, because the individuals don’t have to be named unless they’re a State official. Now, it may be that some lucky high school students were sent off to the German ICT trade show to encourage them to continue their math and science studies. Or, it may be that some business wanted to have the extra cachet of being part of the Governor’s official party and achieved that aim by funneling money to the Governor’s Office through the foundation, along with a wink and a nudge.
Which brings me back to point 1) above. Perhaps the reason the CSPF website is “temporarily unavailable or too busy” is the story I read this morning about Stewart Resnick (aka The Water Baron of Kern County) donating $50,000 to the Governor’s travel fund. The story made the front page of today’s San Francisco Chronicle because it is about how Resnick’s influence with Senator Feinstein and Governor Schwarzenegger has led to the Obama Administration ordering a new scientific review of the data about the environmental impacts of pumping water south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta.
I can’t link to the Resnick story on sfgate because you can only get to it if you subscribe to the digital edition of the newspaper. Not to worry. You can read the article on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s website, where it originated. And read it you should because, for all my leading you down the wrong towpath in the first few paragraphs of this column, the influence of agribusiness in the wars for California water cannot be overstated.
Stewart Resnick and his wife, who live in LA, own a company called Roll International, which had its beginnings with the Resnicks’ security alarm company and their purchase of Teleflora in 1979. During the 80s, they acquired The Franklin Mint and the California agribusiness holdings of oil companies Mobil and Texaco. One of the listings in Hoover’s Company Records describes the company like this:
“It's Wonderful over at Stewart and Lynda Resnick's eclectic empire, Roll International. Its holdings include POM Wonderful, the hip and trendy pomegranate juice with its distinctive bulbous bottle, as well as the hip and trendy water bottler, FIJI Water. More mundane but no less important to its bottom line are the company's other holdings, which include Teleflora, the largest flower-delivery service in the US; Paramount Farms, the world's largest grower and supplier of almonds and pistachios; and Paramount Citrus, a leading producer of fresh lemons and oranges. Roll also owns deep-sea cargo shipper, Neptune Pacific Line, along with Suterra, a maker of environmentally friendly pest-control products.”
Wonderful indeed! But just ask the residents of Santa Cruz, here in the Bay Area, how they feel about Resnick’s pheromone spraying operation to get rid of the light brown apple moth, and you’ll likely be met with quite another adjective used to describe him. Or you could ask the trustees of the estate and a memorial fund for Princess Diana what they think of the company that sued them in 2002 and 2004 for bringing a “malicious” lawsuit against The Franklin Mint in 1998 for allegedly making unauthorized use of Diana’s image on various knick knacks. (The Resnicks sold the Mint in 2006.)
But all that is nothing compared to how Resnick has seemingly rigged parts of California’s north-south water delivery system for the benefit of his nut and citrus operations in the Kern County area of the Central Valley. In a March 2009 article, updated in September, Contra Costa Times reporter Mike Taugher explains how the California Water Bank—which was supposed to provide a store of underground water for use by all California in times of drought—was stymied by Kern County’s refusal to give permission to the CA Department of Water Resources for the project.
The bank was turned over to the Kern County Water Authority instead, and it, in turn, turned the water bank over to the large Westside Mutual Water District and a handful of small local water authorities, including Dudley Ridge Water District, which now owns about 10 percent of the water bank. Dudley Ridge’s board president is also the president of Resnick’s Paramount Farms, which cover 115,000 acres and have to be heavily irrigated even when there isn’t a drought.
As if that’s not enough to make you want to never eat a Paramount pistachio or swig a POM ever again, the events of the past few weeks—outlined in the front page Chron story, and well-documented on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s website—certainly will. See, Resnick still doesn’t think he’s getting enough water from the Bay Delta to keep him in the multibillionaire lifestyle to which he is accustomed, so he wrote letters to his mates DiDi and Arnie, asking them to ask the Obama Administration to pay one of the arms of the National Academy of Sciences to re-evaluate the scientific reports on which the current rationing of California’s water supply is based.
But I’m sure for someone as philanthropical as he is, his own wellbeing is not uppermost in his mind. No, he’s doing it for the farm laborers who swell the ranks of Kern County’s unemployed now that fields that were never created by nature to bear water-needy crops lie fallow. God only knows what science is going to come out of the Resnick Institute at Caltech, but I’m betting it won’t be any that looks at changing farm crops to match the natural proclivity of the land and climate they’re being grown in.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of landowners having big political influence, some large landowners are politicians themselves. Like Abel Maldonado, now the Governor’s pick for Lieutenant Governor. Here’s what Schwarzenegger said about Abe in his speech at a recent conference of the Association of California Water Agencies:
“I want to thank also Senator Abel Maldonado -- where is he? -- for being here today. (Applause) Right here, thank you very much, a man that has fought with me very hard to get the water package done and approved.”
You can read more about Arnie’s package and California’s water wars on Werewolf here:

Next in Comment

How To Immobilise A Health System’s Primary Statutory Adviser And Monitor
By: Ian Powell
Gordon Campbell On Israel’s Murderous Use Of AI In Gaza
By: Gordon Campbell
Death By Algorithm: Israel’s Ai War In Gaza
By: Binoy Kampmark
NZ’s government is relying on executive power to govern – that’s not how MMP was meant to work
By: The Conversation
Gordon Campbell On The Death Of Library Browsing
By: Gordon Campbell
Rat-ling The Cage: The Ethical Dilemmas Of Our Food Systems
By: Lynley Tulloch
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media