This story was first published on Alternet.org
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.
According to McClatchy, the amendment had been around for some time, and had already gone through numerous drafts when it was discovered. 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, it’s something that comes naturally to a hard-hearted career politician 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.
And she’s becoming more brazen, fleecing us right out in the open with no fear of repercussion. Why should she care? It’s not like California’s voters have the power not to reelect her.
Yasha Levine is a mobile home inhabitin’ editor of The eXiled. He is currently stationed in Victorville, CA. You can reach him at levine [at] exiledonline.com
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