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.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.
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.
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.