Editorial: Newsom & big donors – a love affair for the ages

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Scott Thomas Anderson

For people acquainted with the real Gavin Newsom, the start of March felt a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Just weeks before California’s new minimum wage hike went into effect for fast food workers, investigative reporters at Bloomberg News discovered that Newsom had insisted that this law be crafted with a special exemption: This is how the Associated Press describes the carve-out: The new minimum wage will apply to everyone except fast food operations “that have their own bakeries to make and sell bread as a stand-alone menu item.”

It didn’t take long for reporters to figure out that there’s actually only one fast food chain in all of California fitting this hyper-specific description, Panera Bread, which has multiple locations owned by billionaire Greg Flynn – a major donor to Newsom’s campaign.

Such a move is vintage Newsom, though this time, for once, it actually caught up with him. The governor came under fire from all quarters, was descended upon by California media, heard Republicans call for a special investigation and caught the talk of yet another ‘recall’ in the air. While Newsom knows that conservatives wield virtually no power in the Golden State, his broader ambitions took a genuine hit in the sense that Krystal Ball, a progressive commentator on Breaking Points – one of the biggest political podcasts in the nation – unloaded on Newsom’s dishonest dealing.

“Explain how this makes any sense outside of out and out, direct corruption,” Ball said. “And it’s far from the first time that Gavin Newsom has caved to his big donors in the state, whether it’s the Hollywood donors and siding with them on a variety of things, or the Tech donors, who he sided with specifically over some labor pushes, particularly automated driving in the truck industry. He’s the one who was really behind the scenes making sure that single-payer health care never came up because he’s got a bunch of health insurance donors that he’s got to worry about there. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, when you ask, ‘What is Gavin Newsom’s ideology?’, this is it.”

She added, “He will do enough to paint himself in the progressive banner and wave that flag, but if those values come in conflict with the donor class, he’s with the donor class every single time, every day of the week.”

Fact check – correct!

Ball’s specialty as an analyst is organized labor, which probably explains why her screed about Newsom left out the biggest example of just how ethically blind he is. However, California’s indigenous tribes, its major environmental groups, and its small business owners in five different counties, could have easily stepped in to help Ball with that part of the explanation: Unless the legal system stops him, Newsom will allow his Big Ag donors to destroy the California Delta and connected water sheds as we know them.

Of course, Newsom’s position is that his continued push to build the 17 billion dollar Delta Tunnel – which there’s still no funding mechanism for – is to secure the state’s overall water supply. But how else does one explain why a so-called “progressive” governor would completely ignore California’s First Nations as they raise concerns of cultural erasure? Ignore its conservation champions as they try to save fish and wildlife? Ignore the state’s own independent engineers? Ignore the myriad of farmers and small business owners from Sacramento to Solano? Ignore how much the public hates eminent domain seizures and destroying historic legacy towns like Hood?

The answer in one word: Donors.

Newsom’s financial ties to Big Ag in central and southern California are well documented, none more so than with the billionaire champions of the Delta Tunnel, Lynda and Stewart Resnick. These almond and pistachio barons donated more than $350,000 to the governor’s political war chest and literally under-wrote the campaign to stop his recall in 2021. The new debacle with Gregory Flynn and Panera Bread isn’t a bug in Newsom’s system, it’s a feature.

With our indigenous tribes, environmental advocates, regional county governments and small business community all being continuously ignored by Newsom – at least in regards to collapsing the largest freshwater estuary in the western hemisphere – Assemblyman Josh Harder is now taking their fight straight to federal regulators, officially requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers kill the Delta Tunnel on multiple grounds that involve biodiversity and the public good. This week, resource reporter Dan Bacher has the latest developments on that front.

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