University/agribusiness complex exposed: The Resnicks' deep ties to UC Davis, UCLA
Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda, the co-owners of The Wonderful Company, are the Power Couple of Corporate Agribusiness in California.
University/agribusiness complex exposed: The Resnicks' deep ties to UC Davis, UCLA
by Dan Bacher
They exert their influence over California politics in a variety of ways, including dumping many hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein and many other politicans, both Democrats and Republicans, over the years, along with making contributions to the arts and Stewart Resnick's favorite environmental NGO, Conservation International.
The Resnicks have become infamous as the "Koch Brothers of California Water" for the many thousands of dollars they contribute to candidates and propositions in California every election. For example, Stewart Resnick donated $150,000 to the Yes on Prop 1, Governor Jerry Brown's water bond, in 2014. (www.dailykos.com/...)
The media, particularly alternative outlets, have revealed the instrumental role that Resnicks played in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing Delta Tunnels.
It is also well-documented how Resnick, while he served as an "environmental leader" on the Board of Directors of Conservation International, bought subsidized Delta water and then sold it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed. (www.indybay.org/...)
"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. (www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/...)
Environmentalists have also castigated the Resnicks, the largest orchard fruit growers in the world, and other corporate agribusiness interests for planting thousands of acres of new almond trees during the drought while Governor Jerry Brown is mandating that urban families slash water usage by 25 percent. (www.eastbayexpress.com/...)
The Resnicks' contributions to the arts and charities through the Resnick Family Foundation are also well publicized.
However, much less well-known are the Resnicks' deep ties to the University of California system, including Stewart Resnick's "service" on UC boards and their foundation's donations of millions of dollars to the university.
I bet you didn't know that Stewart Resnick sits on the Board of Advisors of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, made famous for serving as Chancellor when UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed students during the Occupy protests in the fall of 2011. (chancellor.ucdavis.edu/...)
Resnick serves with other corporate leaders such as Riley P. Bechtel, chairman of the board of the Bechtel Corporation, and John S. Watson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Chevron Corporation, on the Board of Advisors. For the complete list of Katehi's Board of Advisors, go to: chancellor.ucdavis.edu/…
That's not the only position in the educational system than Resnick holds. According to the UC Davis website, Stewart Resnick is a member of the Executive Board of the UCLA Medical Sciences and a member of the Advisory Board of the Anderson School of Management, at UCLA , his alma mater. Resnick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School.
It is at UCLA where Resnicks exert their influence the most with the millions of dollars they have donated. On May 24, 2013, the UCLA School of Law announced that it had received a $4 million gift from the Resnick Family Foundation to establish the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy.
"The gift provides for as much as another $3 million in matching endowment funds," according to a news release from the UC School of Law. "The new program, the first of its kind at a top tier law school, will explore ways to hasten improvements in the modern food system. In addressing questions of food safety, distribution and access, the Resnick Program will focus on reforming food law and policy for the benefit of the consumer." (https://law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2013/05/UCLA-School-of-Law-Establishes-Resnick-Program-for-Food-Law-and-Policy/)
Dean Rachel F. Moran praised the Resnicks for their donations, stating, "Alumnus Stewart Resnick '62 and his wife Lynda, entrepreneurs and dedicated philanthropists, have long used their charitable donations to promote public health. We are deeply grateful for their generosity and their commitment to advancing sound food law and policy."
Stewart Resnick explained his vision for the Resnick Program:
"UCLA Law is a globally respected institution of higher education located in the food capital of the world. We grow more food in California than anywhere else, and the emphasis on health and wellness here ideally positions UCLA to take a leadership position. The rise of the global food trade has generated a modern food system that is different than anything the world has ever experienced.
From the farm to the fork, this system has given rise to profound health, social, and cultural consequences. Our goal with this donation is to help consumers better understand exactly what they're eating. It's also an opportunity to improve the clarity and accuracy of food labeling and broaden access to healthy food options. I'm very optimistic that this program can save lives."
Ironically, while Stewart Resnick claims to support broadening "access to healthy food options," he has become the poster boy for industrialized corporate agribusiness, kept alive by unsustainable water exports. He and his wife have for years fought against laws that protect salmon and other fish, a healthy wild food source, and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.
University officials also named a hospital after the Resnicks, the Stewart & Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA (NPH), in "honor of their support" for UCLA's medical care programs
According to the hospital's website, the 74-bed acute psychiatric hospital is "among the leading centers in the world for comprehensive patient care, research and education in the fields of mental health, developmental disabilities and neurology. A key part of UCLA Health System, Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital is the major psychiatry teaching facility of the UCLA Center for the Health Sciences." (http://www.semel.ucla.edu/resnick)
The Resnicks contributed $15 million to the construction of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center that opened in June 2008. In 2002, they received the UCLA Medal, the university's highest honor, in recognition of their "extraordinary contributions to the campus." In 2005, the law school bestowed upon Stewart the UCLA School of Law's Alumni of the Year Award.
Resnick is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; a member of the Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust; and trustee of the California Institute of Technology.
The Resnicks have managed to use their wealth not only to exert enormous influence over water politics in California, but over the educational sphere as well, as we can see.
In addition to serving on UC Davis and UCLA boards and panels, the Resnicks have also extended their influence over California water policy by forming "Astroturf" groups like the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and the Californians for Water Security to promote the construction of Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels and legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act and other laws protecting Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species.
Among the companies the Resnicks own include Paramount Citrus, Paramount Farming and Paramount Farms, "the world's largest growers, processors and marketers of citrus, almonds and pistachios," according to UC Davis. Their holdings also include POM Wonderful, grower of pomegranates and maker of the POM Wonderful pomegranate juice; Teleflora, the largest floral wire service in the world; and FIJI Water, the largest imported bottled water in the United States.
The couple also owns Suterra, the "largest biorational pest control company" in the United States, and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery, a winery based in Paso Robles focusing on Bordeaux-style blends and single varietals.
The presence of Stewart Resnick on the boards of UC Davis and UCLA is just one more example of the growing collaboration between corporations, billionaires and government in California and across the nation that has led to the capture of the regulatory apparatus by corporate interests.