30 Nov 2011

Meanwhile, in Westlands the Twilight Zone

RM and JM sent me the news that former Judge Wanger, who ruled on many cases affecting Westlands Water District (WWD), would be "joining" WWD as legal council of some sort.

(Coverage from Fresno, Los Angeles, and Sacramento)

On the one hand, this is a serious WTF move for a guy who recently ruled that federal environmental employees exaggerated their facts to defend the environment (i.e., that WWD deserved more water).

On the other hand, Wanger is merely moving from one branch of government (judicial) to another (WWD is a "public corporation").*

But forget that. This is just about as crazy as former German Chancellor Schroeder going to work for the Russians, i.e., a spectacular violation of any man's idea of "conflict of interest."

But that never kept WWD from hiring the best and the brightest connected. WWD, after all, is a corporation whose sole purpose is NOT farming, but sucking the largest volume of cash out of various government branches.

The only thing sadder than the bureaucrats who dump cash on WWD is the so-called "public servants" who join WWD to get more of that cash.

Bottom Line: Money talks, and Westlands is hiring.
* Need more info on WWD? Listen to my five hours of conversation with WWD's chief, Tom Birmingham.


Mr. Kurtz said...

It does *look* bad, no doubt about that. Whether is *is* bad depends on someone making a plausible case he was suborned on the bench with a promise of a cushy sinecure when he retired. This is a very serious and almost unthinkable crime given the circumstances; a conspiracy fit for the tinfoil-hat set.
Some of the "revolving door" moralizing about private sector/government job switches gets a little stale after a while. In a regulatory agency, the fact that someone in a responsible position actually has some experience in the industry they are regulating does not strike me as such a bad thing. It would be a nice change. If they are an industry stooge, or incompetent, the blame should go to the Congressional committee or agency chief who vetted them.
When people (like Wanger) go the other way, from government into private life, it is often because they would like to earn a little dough after years of relatively low paying Government work. Again, it makes sense for companies to hire these people because they have intimate knowledge of the regulations and how they are implemented.
I don't know much about Wanger except that people of all stripes seem to have a lot of respect for his independence and no-bullshit attitude. Big Water was actually very apprehensive when big cases went to him, because he was perceived as being very "Green", if not an outright pinko. Of course, their spectrum may be calibrated a little differently...

David Zetland said...

@Kurtz -- agreed, but the timing and degree of closeness is quite shocking.

The worst offender, AFAIK, is SEC and Wall Street. The Japanese have a BIG problem with cozy-corruption of retiring bureaucrats "descending from heaven" to get big bucks within corps (like TEPCO, lately known for radioactive poisoning).

I'd prefer a Singapore-style civil service that was well paid and retired without needing to move to public industry for $ (retire to raise flowers OR act as an independent watchdog...)

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