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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Meet the Resnicks, the Koch Brothers of California Water
While serving on the board of Conservation International, Stewart Resnick become notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed.
Meet the Resnicks, the Koch Brothers of California Water
by Dan Bacher
Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire owner of Paramount Farms in Kern County,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.
On April 25, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, exposed in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle the enormous influence of Stewart and Lynda Resnick and the Westlands Water District on the water and fish policies of Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessors. (http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Billionaires-influence-felt-in-state-s-water-5430496.php)
“The influence of the Resnicks and their cohorts in the Westlands and Kern water districts has been brought to bear so heavily on the governor's office during the past three administrations that the fix is basically in on building the peripheral tunnels,” she said.
The Resnicks made $270,000 in contributions to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, $350,000 to support Gov. Gray Davis, and $102,000 to Gov. Jerry Brown, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.
“As a result of the political influence of billionaires who receive taxpayer-subsidized water, the state Department of Water Resources functions almost as a subsidiary of the water exporters,” she said.
“The outsize influence of delta water exporters can be seen in the recent 'drought relief' action by state and federal regulators, which undid with the stroke of a pen Endangered Species Act protections for fisheries that were the result of a decade-long legal challenge. In addition to the requirements set in the biological opinions for delta fisheries, there are three sets of water quality standards arrived at through legal processes that already take into account critical dry-year situations. Two sets of water quality standards are being waived as part of drought emergency measures - one set to protect fisheries, another set to protect water quality for delta family farm,” she continued.
“Beyond that, requirements in the court-issued biological opinions to protect fisheries are being waived. Now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is working with San Joaquin Valley congressional representatives, who have received numerous campaign contributions from Stewart Resnick, on legislation to further weaken already inadequate protections in order to facilitate increased pumping of delta water to southern water users,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Yet the wealthy agribusinessman and "one man environmental wrecking crew" also wears another hat - "environmental leader." Yes, Resnick serves on the board of directors of Conservation International, a corporate "environmental" NGO noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing throughout the world.
Stewart Resnick sits on the board with Rob Walton, the Chairman of the board's Executive Committee. Walton, the oldest child of Sam and Helen Walton, is Chairman of the Board of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
It is no surprise that Conservation International was the top recipient of Walton Family Foundation money in 2013, receiving $20,427,136 including $6,080,392 for the Bird’s Head Seascape, $4,345,744 for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape and $10,000,000 for “Other Environmental Grants.”
"Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity," according to Conservation International's Mission Statement.
However, while serving on the board of Conservation International, Resnick become notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed.
“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” according an article by the late Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. (http://www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/content/pumping-water-and-cash-delta)
Taugher said the “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.”
“No one appears to have benefited more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.”
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, own Roll International, a Los Angeles-based holding company that includes both global agricultural operations and well-known brands. The Resnicks' companies include Paramount Citrus, Paramount Farming, and Paramount Farms, the world’s largest growers, processors, and marketers of citrus, almonds, and pistachios.
The couple's holdings also include POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Teleflora, Suterra, and JUSTIN Vineyard. Dubbed the "POM Queen," Lynda is behind the marketing success of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice and Wonderful Pistachios.
One of the largest private water brokers in the U.S., Roll International makes millions of dollars in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public, confirmed independent journalist Yasha Levine.
“Through a series of subsidiary companies and organizations, Roll International is able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder,” said Levine in “How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity are Hijacking Our Water” on alternet.org. (http://www.alternet.org/story/144020/how_limousine_liberals,_water_oligarchs_and_even_sean_hannity_are_hijacking_our_water_supply)
More recently, Lois Henry of the Bakersfield Californian revealed how the Resnicks have made a profit selling water from the Kern County Water Bank, through a complicated series of maneuvers, to supply a 2,000 acre development called Gateway Village in Madera County.(http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/columnists/lois-henry/x429884005/LOIS-HENRY-How-water-from-Kern-grows-sprawl-in-Madera)
The Resnicks are known for the influence they have exerted over California politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others, through campaign contributions. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/02/15/18637867.php)
The Resnicks exert their influence over California politics in other ways besides direct contributions to political campaigns. For example, the executives of Paramount Farms have also set up an Astroturf group, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, that engages in green washing campaigns such as one blaming striped bass, rather than water exports, for salmon and other fish declines.
Restore the Delta, a coalition opposed to the construction of the peripheral tunnels, pointed out that Resnick, who is one of the biggest Delta water diverters, is not suffering during the drought as family farmers, northern California cities and counties and imperiled salmon and steelhead are. In fact, Fortune magazine on January 21, 2014 wrote about Resnick's $100 million five year advertising campaign to market the "Halos" brand mandarins, as well as their $220 million packinghouse to process the crop.
"Halos' owner -- Los Angeles-based company Roll Global, which also makes POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Fiji Water -- plans to as much as double output in the next five years," the magazine said. "In order to juice demand, the company recently launched a five-year, $100 million ad campaign, $20 million of which will be spent this year on marketing and TV ads already playing across the country. This season the Halos packinghouse will process the country's largest mandarin harvest, tens of millions of boxes of the fruit." (http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/16/news/companies/halos-roll-global.pr.fortune/index.html)
Stewart Resnick's position on the board of an "environmental" NGO while he and wife promote policies that are devastating fish, rivers, the Delta and California's environment provides a glimpse of the larger picture of corporate greenwashing that occurs with groups that receive grants from the Walton Family Foundation, the organization set up by the family who own Walmart. A complete list of Walton Family Foundation environmental grants is available at: http://2013annualreport.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/environment/
Rally outside the Resnick mansion on Oct. 2!
Mock reception with the Resnicks
Want to have some fun and challenge corporate agribusiness at the same time? Then attend a mock reception outside the home of famous (infamous) Delta water diverters, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, hosted by the No on Proposition 1 campaign.
There will be be a rally and press conference at this "reception" with the Koch Brothers of California Water on Thursday, October 2 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the home of Stewart and Lynda Resnick — 9481 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Meet on the grassy median on Sunset Blvd. outside their home.
This rally and press conference launches the Los Angeles campaign against Proposition 1, Governor Jerry Brown's water bond, on the California ballot, and exposes the Resnicks, who stand to benefit from the two dams funded by the latest state water bond. That's why they have been dubbed "The Koch Brothers of California Water" and the No on Prop 1 Campaign is holding a press conference outside their opulent Beverly Hills mansion.
The rally will highlight that Proposition 1 unfairly allocates up to $3.6 billion for new dams and water transfers for corporate agribusinesses such as Resnick’s Paramount Farms and should be rejected by voters.
"The majority of the water taken from the Delta goes to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley--the most powerful being Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who own POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, Halos, Cuties, and popular brands," according to Restore the Delta.
Water Barons Stewart and Lynda Resnick hog California's water to irrigate water-intensive crops grown on toxic soil in the south Central Valley and then export the lion's share to emerging markets like China. They are the most powerful corporate agribusiness pushing to build the BDCP twin tunnels. Proposition 1 will funnel water to the 1% and do nothing to address our dire drought.
"We could be investing in real solutions to our water crisis, but instead almost 40% of Prop 1 prioritizes more dams (to store water we don't have) and water transfers for greedy corporate agribusiness, like the Resnicks," according to the announcement for the event from Food and Water Watch. "Just what we need, empty dams! We don't have more money or water to waste subsidizing corporate interests!"
Formal wear is encouraged for this reception, but not required. This fun action includes lots of fun signage, and refreshments served by Resnick impersonators who are eager to tell you how Prop 1 forces taxpayers like us to bankroll projects that make the Resnicks and their friends even richer.
I urge everybody to join the mock reception as water bond opponents tell the media: Prop 1 is a blank check for the 1% and the Resnicks!
For more information about the event, go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/385126921642037/
Background: California voters will soon decide the fate of Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion bond measure that with interest would cost California taxpayers $14.4 billion. That would take $360 million per year for 40 years out of our State’s general fund—money that could be used for other needs like education and healthcare.
Over one-third of Prop 1—$2.7 billion—is prioritized for spending without oversight by the legislature to build dams for corporate agribusiness. In addition, an additional $500 to $900 million could be used to purchase water transfers for these interests, many of which are growing and exporting water-intensive crops to China. Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms is one of the largest and most politically influential growers that has consistently demanded more water at the expense of the public and the environment.
Proposition 1 won’t solve our drought problems and fails to address the root causes of California’s water crisis. California needs to invest billions of dollars in fixing our cities’ crumbling and leaking water and sewer systems, expanding water recycling and cleaning up groundwater, and prioritizing water for disadvantaged communities. Prop 1 provides woefully inadequate funds for these activities and would force taxpayers to pay for dams that won’t create any new water for most Californians.