Almost every stupid thing that happens in California has the fingerprints of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein. However, the strange saga of Delta "farmer" Stewart Resnick illustrates the Joys of "bipartisanship."
Published in The San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 2009
Major Donor Got Feinstein's Help on Delta Plan
by Lance Williams, California Watch
Wealthy corporate farmer Stewart Resnick has written check after check to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's political campaigns. He's hosted a party in her honor at his Beverly Hills mansion and he's entertained her at his second home in Aspen.
And in September, when Resnick asked Feinstein to weigh in on the side of agribusiness in a drought-fueled environmental dispute over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, this wealthy grower and political donor got quick results, documents show.
On Sept. 4, Resnick wrote to Feinstein, complaining that the latest federal plan to rescue the delta's endangered salmon and shad fisheries was "exacerbating the state's severe drought" because it cut back on water available to irrigate crops. "Sloppy science" by federal wildlife agencies had led to "regulatory-induced water shortages," he claimed.
"I really appreciate your involvement in this issue," he wrote to Feinstein.
One week later, Feinstein forwarded Resnick's letter to two U.S. Cabinet secretaries. In her own letter, she urged the administration to spend $750,000 for a sweeping re-examination of the science behind the entire delta environmental protection plan.
The Obama administration quickly agreed. . .
Resnick's Paramount Farms owns 118,000 acres of heavily irrigated California orchards. And since he began buying farmland 25 years ago, Resnick, his wife and executives of his companies have donated $3.97 million to candidates and political committees, mostly in the Golden State, a California Watch review of public records shows.
They have given $29,000 to Feinstein and $246,000 more to Democratic political committees during years when she has sought re-election. . .
In Los Angeles, Resnick, 72, is known as one of the city's wealthiest men and among its most generous philanthropists. He's given $55 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and millions more for a psychiatric hospital at UCLA and an energy institute at Cal Tech.
His wife and business partner, Lynda Resnick, is an entrepreneur, socialite and writer. Her 2008 marketing book, "Rubies in the Orchard," had attracted blurbs from Martha Stewart and Rupert Murdoch, and her "Ruby Tuesday" blog is sometimes featured on huffingtonpost.com. The couple live in a Beverly Hills mansion that writer Amy Wilentz called "Little Versailles." It's the scene of parties for celebrities, charities and politicians - governors, senators and presidential candidates. . .
In the 1990s, they gave $238,000 to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, records show, although Resnick says he doesn't recall giving to Wilson and doesn't think he ever met him.
The Resnicks also backed the Democrat who replaced Wilson, Gray Davis. They gave Davis $643,000 and $91,500 more to oppose Davis' recall in 2003.
With Davis gone, Resnick began donating to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - $221,000, records show - plus $50,000 to a foundation that pays for the governor's foreign travel.
Other big donations include $776,000 to Democratic political committees, $134,000 to agribusiness political committees and initiatives, and $59,000 to Republican committees. . .
In August 2000, when the Democratic National convention was in Los Angeles, the Resnicks hosted a cocktail party for Feinstein in their home. Among the guests were the singer Nancy Sinatra, then-Gov. Davis and former President Jimmy Carter, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In 2007, they gave $10,000 to the Fund for the Majority, Feinstein's political action committee. In June, another committee to which Resnick has contributed, the California Citrus Mutual PAC, spent $2,500 to host a fundraiser for Feinstein, records show.
Feinstein also socializes with the Resnicks. Arianna Huffington, the blog editor and former candidate for governor, told the New York Observer in 2006 that she had spent New Year's with Feinstein at the Resnicks' home in Aspen. "We wore silly hats and had lots of streamers and everything," she said of the party.
Last month, state lawmakers enacted a package of measures aimed at reforming the state's outmoded water allocation system. The centerpiece - an $11 billion bond to build new dams and canals - must be approved by voters.
See, all we have to do to fix things in this country is to get the "best and the brightest" Republicans and Democrats to sit down at a big table and . . .