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Cadiz water deal was all wet the last time

Keith Brackpool's latest plan to tap 'surplus' Colorado River water for the Southland had been rejected in 2002. Now he's got some powerful backing.

June 11, 2009|MICHAEL HILTZIK

Slater acknowledges that numerous environmental approvals still would be needed, though he contends that the process could be completed in a year after the project is formally proposed. Considering the opposition the last version generated from local activists and environmentalists, that sounds a teensy bit ambitious.

Arguably, the best thing the project has going for it is Brackpool's ability to attract political friends, as a flame attracts moths. Some say the secret is his British charm, but the record points more to money.

From 1999 through 2005, Brackpool and others associated with Cadiz donated $43,650 to Villaraigosa, who also worked for Cadiz as a "consultant" before becoming mayor. Over the years, Cadiz donated $345,000 to Davis' campaigns.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who is quoted in the Cadiz release predicting "an immediate infusion of economic stimulus" thanks to the water project, got a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions from Cadiz in 2007 and 2008. Also quoted admiringly in the release is Rep. Jim Costa (R-Fresno), who has been active on water issues and has received more than $12,000 in campaign contributions from Brackpool and Cadiz associates.

Neither Brackpool nor Cadiz appears to have contributed money to Schwarzenegger.

But the governor's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, used to work for Cadiz: In 2005, while she was serving on the state Public Utilities Commission, the firm paid her $120,000 in consulting fees.

When I asked the governor's office if Kennedy helped secure Schwarzenegger's testimonial for Cadiz, the reply was, "We're not going to elaborate . . . on our internal process."

There may be a lesson in all this about how to mix politics and water: For a catalyst, try liberal amounts of cash.

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Michael Hiltzik's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. Reach him at michael.hiltzik@latimes.com, read his previous columns at www.latimes.com/hiltzik, and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.

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