The first stretch of the legislative year is over, and lawmakers are going down under.
Seeking to impart lessons from Australia’s 15-year “millennium drought,” the nonprofit California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy is paying for a handful of lawmakers to fly across the world during the Legislature’s spring recess next week. They’ll be joined by various interest group representatives.
The organization sponsored a drought-focused Australia trip last year as well. This year’s participants are Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Assemblymen Rob Bonta, Jim Cooper, Jimmy Gomez, Christopher Holden, Evan Low and Rudy Salas. Three of them – Wieckowski, Bonta and Holden – went on a CFEE-sponsored trip to Singapore last year.
Also on the guest list are officials from unions representing pipe workers and electrical workers; members of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council; and employees of Chevron, Comcast and the California Farm Bureau Federation. Transparency advocates regularly assail such trips as thinly veiled lobbying opportunities giving interest groups additional access to public officials.
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While the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy does not have to reveal its donors, the organization’s board of directors features people from an array of powerful interest groups including oil companies, organized labor outfits, utilities, environmental advocates and water importers.
“The Foundation develops public policy discussions as well as these study travel projects abroad to educate California leaders on issues and gain insights from the experience of other nations,” spokesman PJ Johnston said in an email. “This sharing of views and experiences leads to a broader understanding of complex issues, and encourages the exchange of policy and technology ideas.”