The Resnicks Manipulate Water Policy with Big Campaign Contributions
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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 California’s 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."
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 Schwarzenegger’s campaign coffers. They haven’t contributed to the Republican candidates for Governor, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner yet, but don’t 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 doesn’t matter if they’re Republican, Democrat or the Anti-Christ, he’ll try to buy their votes.”
“For Brown to say that he doesn’t 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.”