California State Capitol

How are all those political contributions working out?

How’s that working for you?

A story on lobbying efforts spent to prime the political pumps in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere suggests that maybe – no, not maybe – California agriculture isn’t getting a good return in its political expenditure investment portfolio.

Years of drought conditions culminated this year in zero water for California growers, yet a story from Southern California Public Radio reports that agricultural interests in California kept political coffers flowing soundly even when canals in California were running dry.

Maybe the money helped fund the Great Drought Tour of 2014 by Republican lawmakers such as House Speaker John Boehner and Representatives Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, who dropped in on Bakersfield earlier this year for a photo opportunity in a drought-parched field.

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Or maybe it greased the skids enough for Air Force One to drop President Obama off in Fresno so he could get a birds-eye view from Marine One of fallowed farmland in one of the richest agricultural regions in the world.

Read the story and their linked reports for a more complete picture of just how much the folks with Westlands Water District and the Stewart Resnick family (Paramount Farms) spent on political efforts. What do they have to show for it?

Right or wrong, I realize the pay-to-play state of American politics is the system we have, but for folks who know how to crunch numbers and find margins where there aren’t any, the fact that California agriculture can spend so much and get virtually nothing in return is disturbing to say the least.

Mixed messages?

I wrote recently about comments made by the chief of a prominent agricultural organization that the money tap could run dry if comprehensive immigration reform can’t be adequately addressed for agriculture. I’ve talked on and off the record with other Ag leaders who say California isn’t spending enough on political efforts and how “embarrassing” it is for farm PAC accounts to have so little money in them.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe these accounts do need seven-to-10 figures in them to make a difference. Forgive me if I sound like I still believe in a representative government that is of, by and for the people rather than the pay-to-play popularity contest we currently have.

A cursory look at what officials with Westlands Water District reportedly spent on political races and issues (to be fair you could easily swap the name “Westlands Water District” for other Ag organizations and commodity groups, but theirs are the numbers reported) and you’ll see that while the lion’s share of the money went to Republicans, agriculture pays a fair amount of protection money to Democrats too, though maybe that’s at the heart of the issue. Not enough protection money is paid to Democrats to keep the store open and free from burglars.

That Democrats received about one-third the total contributions of Republicans from Westlands officials in a state as blue as California may be in part why agriculture’s place at the table may simply be granted because it meets the minimum-required cover charge rather than a true desire by elected officials to listen, learn and discover the important roll agriculture plays when it comes to such issues as human health, safety, jobs, the environment and the prevention of civil unrest, because let’s face it: hungry people tend to become frightened and angry.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette or reach me at [email protected]

TAGS: Legislative
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