18 Mar 2010

Feinstein's special special interests

You can read Stuart Leavenworth's whole piece, but here are the goodies:
Feinstein's main reason for calling was to complain that I hadn't made an attempt to obtain details of her bill language before publishing our editorials.

I acknowledged we hadn't sought that information, assuming she (like other senators) wouldn't provide details of a bill that hadn't yet been filed.

In the spirit of openness, I then asked her to go public with the language of her amendment. She declined.

"What's the point?" she asked.

The conversation went on from there.

I asked her why she was devoting such singular attention to Westlands and not some of the other interests hurt by California's water crisis – such as salmon fishermen.


On the other hand, as I noted to Feinstein, scores of Fresno farm operations spent the last decade planting almond orchards, even though they lacked secure water rights or adequate groundwater. Is it the government's duty to help farmers who have made such risky decisions?

Feinstein's only answer was that the Central Valley is a major exporter of almonds, and the state should do all it can to protect the industry.

From our conversation, it was clear Feinstein has bought into many of the talking points of Westlands – that smelt in the Delta are being wiped out by predators more than water pumps, that the Delta is being poisoned with ammonia from sewage treatment plants in Sacramento and elsewhere.

Several times, Feinstein made the claim that the state is in a "wet water year," and thus should be able to spare some for farms. Water, she said, was spilling from Shasta Lake.

When I challenged her on that point, she responded. "Want to bet?"

I could then hear her rustling through some papers before conceding that Shasta was well below its capacity.

Why is Feinstein going to bat for Westlands is this way?

Politics is one answer. Farm water is a huge issue for Valley Democrats trying to keep their seats this year. By putting pressure on the Obama administration to favor farmers over fish, Feinstein provides cover for vulnerable Dems, such as U.S. Reps. Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Bottom Line: Feinstein is NOT representing the people of California; she's representing a special interest WITHIN a special interest. Too bad for the other 38 million Californians.
Careful study of the reports suggests that Westland’s Tom Birmingham knew exactly how Feinstein would react to Westland's mating dance with Republicans. In fact, you can bet that the message to Feinstein was intentional: if you do not do our bidding, the Republicans will become our champion and they – not you – will get the big campaign bucks. Subsequent events confirm that it is indeed the dog that wags the tail and not... the tail wagging the dog. In case you were wondering, Feinstein is the tail.


Josh said...

As for campaign contributions, this is Republican country much more than Democratic country we are talking about... This is the land of Richard Pombo.

They pay both sides, but I'm confident they pay more to the Reep's than the Dems.

Feinstein has always been a moderate Dem., and she has used farming and water as her way to paint herself as that moderate.

This in no way provides any cover for Boxer, who is more liberal. I can see it probably helping Cardoza and Costa.

Almonds did slightly better than average last year - I think they were up 3%... while the rest of the state sank deep.

What it comes down to is that she has friends here, and it's personal. Of course they are rich, too. But it's personal, and that is just as sad and frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunate that you just parrot Stuart Leavenworth's rather uncharitable opinion.

Feinstein is a pragmatic politician. The screaming in the urban papers would have you believe it's government gone mad, and that DiFi is responding just to, say, 3 or 4 of her very rich best friends in Westlands Water District. What's not really worried over too much in the urban papers, or for that matter your blog, is the wholesale fallowing that went down in the San Joaquin Valley last year due the the Delta smelt, and the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars that were lost in that economy. We can argue about just how big those losses are, and the enviros certainly have recently in order to take some of the heat off the ESA, but it's more or less a fact that many of the lowest-income strata of our society had to suck it up for what is essentially an urban law - the ESA.

An urban law with rural impacts, I should add.

The litigation that shut down the pumps in the name of the Delta smelt was special-interest litigation. But turn them back on? Oh, suddenly guys like you and Leavenworth start screaming "special interest".

It's only a foul if the other team does it, right?

Josh said...

Captain Flounder, learn the facts of the case rather than re-spinning what you've been spun.

Start here:


Then here:


Then come back.

Anonymous said...

Josh, it's quite possible that I'm a little deeper into the facts of this than you know. Certainly, if you think a couple of LA Times articles are either new to me, or somehow "factual" in the sense that other papers are "spin", then I guess we'd be just talking past each other. Good luck.

Josh said...

Well, if you are unable to read the NAS report that flat-out says that the recent decisions to keep water in the Delta, rather than remove it, were scientifically valid, then yeah, we are talking past each other.

As for your urban-rural comment, I take serious offense at that. I am all rural, and the Central Valley's water grabs have just about ruined my land.

Now that we finally get some law with teeth on our side (sadly, it's the last-gasp law for some species), then the big-moneyed, urban-living-but-rural-taking "farmers" come in with their big political connections. Of course, I should have known and expected it - I've watched what they've done to the once-beautiful Central Valley my whole life.

Anonymous said...

Flounder says, "Feinstein is a pragmatic politician." Just after accusing Leavenworth of being "uncharitable" for saying exactly the same thing.

Guess it's all in whose ox is being gored... but it's scary to see how polarized we've become, that people can look at the same facts, draw the same conclusions, and still disagree.

David Zetland said...

@Captain -- I don't agree that "many of the lowest-income strata of our society had to suck it up" wrt water cuts. Westlands was hurt, and WWD land OWNERS are not the lowest strata, and they have suffered lower land values, lost markets and dead (overplanted) orchards. Their workers have been in trouble for years -- esp. the day workers :(

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