This November 4 will be the second anniversary of the passage of Proposition 1, Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial water bond, a measure that fishing groups, California Indian Tribes, grassroots conservation groups and environmental justice advocates opposed because they considered it to be a water grab for corporate agribusiness and Big Money interests.
Proponents of Proposition 1 contributed a total of $21,820,691 and spent a total of $19,538,153 on the successful campaign. The contributors are a who’s who of Big Money interests in California, including corporate agribusiness groups, billionaires, timber barons, Big Oil. the tobacco industry and the California Chamber of Commerce. They provide a quick snapshot of the corporate interests behind the questionable environmental policies of Brown.
Many people voted for the proposition only because Brown said no bond funds would be used for the widely-unpopular Delta Tunnels. However, after the election, as Proposition 1 opponents expected, the Brown administration did indeed admit that it could use water bond funds for the massive tunnels project.
In April 2015, an administration official admitted that the state could use money from Proposition 1, the water bond, to pay for “habitat mitigation” linked to the construction and operation of the massive Delta Tunnels.
Richard Stapler, spokesman for the California Department of Natural Resources, “acknowledged that the money [for delta habitat restoration] could conceivably come from Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond that California passed last year,” according to Peter Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Restore the Delta and other public trust advocates at the time slammed Governor Brown for breaking his campaign promise that bond money wouldn’t be used to mitigate the environmental damage caused by the tunnels, a $67 billion project designed to export Sacramento River water to agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations.
More recently, on August 10, 2016, the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to conduct an audit into funding for the tunnels, as requested by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman and state Senator Lois Wolk. It will be interesting to see what this audit turns out, including possible use of Prop. 1 money to fund planning for the Delta Tunnels, now called the “California WaterFix.”
The vote for the audit was spurred by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Inspector General’s opening of an investigation into the possible illegal use of millions of dollars by the California Department of Water Resources in preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Delta tunnels Plan. The investigation resulted from a complaint that the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed on the behalf of a U. S. Bureau of Reclamation employee on February 19, 2016.
The complaint, made public in a statement from PEER on April 11, details how a funding agreement with DWR is “illegally siphoning off funds that are supposed to benefit fish and wildlife to a project that will principally benefit irrigators” under the California Water Fix, the newest name for the Delta Tunnels Plan.
While mainstream media covered both the audit and the federal investigation into the tunnels funding, the corporate media and most “alternative” media outlets have completely failed to cover the much bigger issue of the Big Money, $21,820,691, behind the passage of Proposition 1.
Guess who was one of the contributors to the Prop. 1 campaign? Yes, Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon, owner of The Wonderful Company and largest orchard fruit grower in the world, contributed $150,000.
Corporate agribusiness interests, the largest users of federal and state water project water exported through the Delta pumping facilities, contributed $850,000 to the campaign, including the $150,000 donated by Resnick. The California Farm Bureau Federation contributed $250,000, the Western Growers Service Association donated $250,000 and California Cotton Alliance contributed $200,000.
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels – and have made millions off reselling environmental water to the public.
The largest individual donor in the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign was Sean Parker, who contributed $1 million to the campaign. Parker is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who cofounded the file-sharing computer service Napster and served as the first president of the social networking website Facebook. He also cofounded Plaxo, Causes, and Airtime.
Four members of the Fisher family, who own the controversial Gap stores, collectively donated $1.5 million to the Yes. on Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 campaign. They also own the Mendocino Redwood Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, formerly the Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), more than half a million acres of redwood forest lands in total.
Doris F. Fisher contributed $499,000, John J. Fisher $351,000, Robert J. Fisher $400,000 and William S. Fisher $250,000. In a major conflict of interest, Robert Fisher profits by logging North Coast forests while he serves as co-chair of a little-known cabinet-level body in Sacramento called the “California Strategic Growth Council (SGC),” according to reporter Will Parrish in the East Bay Express.
“Enacted by the state legislature in 2008, the SGC is a cornerstone of Governor Jerry Brown’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” Parrish wrote. “The panel has the broad and unprecedented mandate of coordinating implementation of California’s climate change prescriptions across all levels of state government, while also preparing the state to accommodate a projected population of 50 million by the year 2050.”
“As such, Robert Fisher, whose close relationship with Brown is well-known within the corridors of the state Capitol, is not only in charge of helping set California climate change policy, but he also profits handsomely from harvesting living species that are increasingly being recognized as one of our last best hopes for forestalling the catastrophic impacts of global warming,” said Parrish.
Aera Energy LLC, a company jointly owned by affiliates of Shell and ExxonMobil, contributed $250,000 to the Yes on Proposition 1 and 2 campaign, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Aera Energy LLC is one of California’s largest oil and gas producers, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the state’s production, according to the company’s website.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris also contributed $100,000 to Governor Brown’s ballot measure committee established to support Propositions 1 and 2. On October 20, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) called on the governor to return that money.
A total of eleven ballot measure campaign committees registered in support of Proposition 1 and 2, according to Ballotpedia. (https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_1,_Water_Bond_(2014))
In contrast with the $21,820,691 contributed and the $19,538,153 spent by backers of Prop. 1, opponents of the measure raised only $101,149 and spent $86,347 during the campaign. To put that in perspective, note that just one big grower, Stewart Resnick, contributed $150,000 to the Prop. 1 campaign, more than all of the opponents combined. And Resnick wasn’t even one of the top 23 donors, with Sean Parker being the largest individual donor at $1,000,000!
In spite of Jerry Brown’s cynical rhetoric about “green energy” and “climate change” at climate conferences and carefully choreographed greenwashing events, the money spent by corporate, big money interests on the Yes on Proposition 1 and 2 campaign reveals who really is behind the Governor’s anti-environmental policies.
A groundbreaking report released by Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based consumer organization, on August 10 puts Governor Brown in an even less flattering light. The group reported that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor.
“The timing of energy industry donations around important legislation and key pro-industry amendments, as well as key regulatory decisions in which Brown personally intervened, raises troubling questions about whether quid pro quos are routine for this administration,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker, author of the report, Brown’s Dirty Hands. “While Brown paints himself as a foe of fossil fuels, his Administration promoted reckless oil drilling, burning dirty natural gas to make electricity, and used old hands from industry and government, placed in key regulatory positions, to protect the fossil fuel-reliant energy industry.”
You can download the report here: www.consumerwatchdog.org.