I know that there are some honest people in Washington, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem that way. What is really disturbing to me is that corruption seems to run from top to bottom. We may have to get rid of politicians with questionable ethics, and we may have to get rid of their staffs as well. This does not bode well for America.
Last week The Wall Street Journal posted a story that illustrates the total disregard for ethical behavior now running rampant in Washington. The story has to do with a company named Cadiz, Inc., and their plans to build an underground pipeline along the Arizona & California Railroad’s right-of-way to transport 50,000 acre-feet of water annually to Southern California.
The article reports:
The Department of Interior’s longstanding policy allowed railroads to run power, telephone and fiber optics lines along their rights-of-way without a federal permit, thus expediting environmental review. However, in November 2011, after Cadiz had modified its plan to reduce environmental opposition, Interior at the insistence of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein revised its policy to limit the use of railroad rights-of-way granted in 1875 to “activities that derive from or further a railroad purpose.”
The Cadiz pipeline was the only project subject to the new rules. Cadiz spent several years and $12 million reconfiguring the pipeline to “further a railroad purpose,” proposing the likes of hydro-turbines, power safety systems and automated fire suppression. None of Cadiz’s compromises satisfied regulators.
On Oct. 2, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) informed congressional staff—who tipped off Cadiz—of an imminent adverse ruling. A letter circulated by the bureau noted that the pipeline “does not derive from or further a railroad purpose” because the fire suppression system was “an uncommon industry practice,” among other complaints. The kicker was that the ruling could not be appealed because it “is not a final agency decision.” Thus the pipeline would have to undergo a formal environmental review. Ms. Feinstein has attached riders to every Interior appropriations bill since 2008 barring a review.
Within a week of the BLM ruling, Cadiz’s stock plummeted 65%. Yet one Cadiz investor had inside information that could have allowed him to make a killing. Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Cadiz reveal that BLM realty specialist Erik Pignata (who oversaw the Cadiz review from the Sacramento bureau) shared non-public information with Cadiz investor Thomas McGannon of Whetstone Capital Advisors. Cadiz provided the emails to us.
Thomas McGannon sold short based on the information that Erik Pignata shared and Mr. McGannon profited greatly. Just for the record, there is a 1990 executive order forbidding government employees from improperly using non-public government information to further a private interest. Let’s hope the government chooses to separate Mr. McGannon from his ill-gotten gains.
Just a note–I love the Freedom of Information Act.