Governor Brown met privately with Beverly Hills ag queen, junk bond king
by Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown on May 2, 2012 met privately with Lynda Resnick, the co-owner of Paramount Farms and Roll International and a fierce supporter of the peripheral tunnels and increased water exports to corporate agribusiness, and Michael Milken, Chairman of the Milken Institute and notorious Junk Bond King.
The event was billed as “Private California Session Discussion with Governor Jerry Brown (by invitation only) to discuss how they could “make the state more attractive to outside investors.” (http://www.milkeninstitute.org/...)
The Milken Institute website explains the supposed reason for the meeting: “In the 1980s, foreign capital from Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada flowed into the Golden State. In the 1990s, the dot-com bubble attracted significant amounts of investment as everyone tried to grab a piece of the coming IT revolution. But today the picture is murkier: Facebook, LinkedIn and other companies have launched successful IPOs, but California doesn't have its former dominant hold over venture capital investment now that many VC firms are looking overseas for new opportunities.”
“Meantime, many California-based companies are investing to expand outside the state. How can we make the state more attractive to outside investors? How can California build on its historic advantages: its strong entrepreneurial environment, robust venture capital community, globally renowned research universities, and leading export industries such as technology, entertainment and agriculture,” the website stated.
Others who participated in the private discussion include Lewis Feldman, Partner and Los Angeles Chair, Goodwin Procter LLP, Scott Minerd, Chief Investment Officer, Guggenheim Partners, and Russ Yarrow, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Chevron.
There was no information posted on the website about specifically what was discussed during the meeting, nor was there any press coverage of the event that I could find. I also haven’t received any response from the Governor’s Office to my inquiry about what transpired during the meeting.
This was not the first time that Brown has appeared at the conference. He took the stage with Milken at the 2011 Milken Institute State of the State Conference, as well as spoke at the event in 2000 when he was Mayor of Oakland (http://www.milkeninstitute.org/...
Brown is not currently listed as a speaker at the Milken Institute 2013 Global Conference from April 28 to May 1, 2013 in Los Angeles. (http://www.milkeninstitute.org/...)
Lynda Resnick, who met privately with Brown, Milken and the other corporate operatives, is vice chairman of Roll Global. Resnick and her husband, Stewart, own Paramount Farms and Paramount Citrus Companies, making them the nation's largest farmers of tree crops, as well as the floral service Teleflora and FIJI Water, the nation's No. 1 imported bottled water. Dubbed the "POM Queen," Lynda is behind the marketing success of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice.
The Resnicks are notorious for the influence they have exerted over California politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others, through campaign contributions. (http://www.indybay.org/...)
The Resnicks contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign (http://californiawatch.org/...).
The Resnicks have waged a relentless campaign to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley salmon and other species and are huge supporters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. Paramount Farm Executives 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.
Roll International, one of the largest private water brokers in the U.S., makes millions of dollars in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public.
“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,” reported Yasha Levine in “How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity are Hijacking Our Water” on alternet.org. (http://www.alternet.org/...)
Brown and Resnick were in “good company” with Michael Robert Milken, an American financier who developed the market for "junk bonds" during the 1970s and 1980s.
He was indicted for racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 in an insider trading investigation. In a plea bargain, he pled guilty to securities and reporting violations but not to racketeering or insider trading, according to Wikipedia.
The judge sentenced Milken to ten years in prison, fined him $600 million, and permanently barred him from the securities industry by the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, in the manner so customary of how the justice system is lenient on white-collar criminals who have defrauded people of millions or billions of dollars, his sentence was later reduced to two years for cooperating with testimony against his former colleagues and for good behavior.
Milken’s critics denounced him as the epitome of Wall Street greed during the 1980s and the “Greed is Good” slogan, nicknaming him the "Junk Bond King.” After getting out of prison, Milken tried to resurrect himself as a philanthropist, creating the Milken Institute (prospect.org/article/resurrection-michael-milken)
According to the Milken Institute website, “A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, the Milken Institute believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges and improve lives. Our mission is to improve lives around the world by advancing innovative economic and policy solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital and enhance health.”
The big question that must be asked is: What was discussed between Brown, Milken, Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon Lynda Resnick, Russ Yarrow, the General Manager of Corporate Affairs for Chevron, Lewis Feldman, Partner and Los Angeles Chair of Goodwin Procter LLP, and Scott Minerd, the Chief Investment Officer of Guggenheim Partners, in this private meeting? Were the peripheral tunnels and water privatization brought up as part of the discussion of how to “make the state “more attractive to outside investors?”
The problem is that the public will probably never know what was discussed, since this was a private discussion not accessible by the press or the public.
This meeting occurs in the context of Jerry Brown continuing and expanding the worst environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration, including record water exports and fish kills in the Delta pumps in 2011, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels and the corrupt, oil industry-overseen Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create alleged “marine protected areas” in California and massive clearcutting of forests in the Sierra Nevada.
“If Governor Jerry Brown is really interested in the welfare of California, he would abide by the 150 years of water law that is clear about what we all need to do,” said Carolee Krieger, executive director of the California Water Impact Network. “First, find out what water is actually there and second, change the contracts for all the water agencies to reflect what is really there.
“The State Board has promised 156 MILLION acre feet of water a year when the entire river system only has 29 MILLION acre feet a year on average. This over promised water in the contracts is the problem. Backroom dirty deals are not the answer,” she concluded.
You can bet that whatever was discussed in secret, it won't bode well for California, democracy, the public trust and struggling salmon and Delta fish populations.
As John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”
When politicians and powerful corporate executives and lawyers meet behind the veil of secrecy like Brown, Milken, Resnick, Feldman, Minerd, and Yarrow did last year, nothing good can possibly come of it.