Who’s Bankrolling the Push for Prop 18?

SAN FRANCISCO – Developers, agribusiness and construction interests would benefit from the water bond on this fall’s ballot, while public services—such as education and public health programs—could suffer, according to a new analysis from consumer organization Food & Water Watch.

As California’s legislators return to Sacramento this week to decide the fate of Proposition 18, an $11 billion water bond that the governor hopes to postpone to the 2012 ballot, the group today released an independent analysis detailing the funders of the pro-bond campaign and the interests that stand to benefit from the most expensive water bond in the state’s history. The fact sheet, Who’s Behind the Bond?, can be downloaded here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/california/no-water-bond/whos-behind-the-bond/.

“Proposition 18 is being sold as a solution that will benefit all Californians, but over half of the contributions to the Alliance for Clean Water and New Jobs, the main political action committee behind the bond, come from agribusiness, construction and development interests,” said Elanor Starmer, Western Region Director for Food & Water Watch. “The bond provides more money for these interests, which have mismanaged our water in the past.”

The bond would cost the state’s General Fund an estimated $800 million a year, enough to fund 13,000 teachers’ salaries or a quarter of the University of California’s state funding each year, according to the report. But while taxpayers would likely see cuts to these and other essential services if the bond passed, they would not be the main beneficiaries of bond-funded projects.

Food & Water Watch examined campaign finance reports and other documents to determine who contributed to the pro-bond PAC directly and indirectly through other PACs, such as Schwarzenegger’s California Dream Team.

The group then investigated several primary beneficiaries of the water bond based on the text of the bill and other documents. Some beneficiaries, such as powerful Central Valley corporate farms and The Westlands Water District, are well known. Other less obvious beneficiaries include Warren Buffet, large construction companies like Japan-based Obayashi Corp., and companies in the business of privatizing water resources like American Water Company and Poseidon Resources.

The analysis concludes that these interests, not the general public, are the main beneficiaries of the water bond, although the cost of the bond would be borne by all taxpayers.

With polls showing lagging support for the bond, Governor Schwarzenegger asked the legislature last month to delay the measure until the 2012 ballot. Any adjustment to Prop 18, including postponement, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature. The legislature has until around Aug. 20, when ballots will be approved by the Secretary of State, to postpone or remove the measure from the ballot.

“Our report shows that the bond does not benefit the taxpayers who would foot the bill for these projects,” said Food & Water Watch’s Starmer. “In the interest of all Californians, legislators should take this opportunity to repeal the bond and start anew, not postpone it.”

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