| [UPDATE] Almost as soon as I posted this Arnold announced the fundraiser will be rescheduled to Sept. 19. Doesn't change the basic issue though.
Not content with firing 20,000 state workers and jeopardizing the wages of thousands more, and apparently unconcerned that the lack of a state budget might further harm California's already reeling economy, Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to Portland on Thursday to raise money for Republican US Senator Gordon Smith.
The fundraiser is a slap in the face to Californians, and not just because Arnold is abandoning the budget stalemate. Gordon Smith played a central role in the salmon crisis that has crippled the California fishing industry and imperiled the jobs of thousands.
In 2002 Smith conspired with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to divert water from the Klamath River to farmers in southern Oregon experiencing dry conditions, in order to shore up Smith's rural base. Cheney convened a "God squad" that overrode endangered species protections in order to make the water diversion for nakedly political purposes - still one of the boldest and most destructive anti-environment moves of the entire Bush era.
The result was an ongoing catastrophe for the Pacific Coast salmon fishery. The diversion caused a massive die-off of salmon in the Klamath River in 2002, but the effects have been long-lasting. Salmon numbers have been so slow to recover that salmon fishing was severely restricted in 2007. Here in 2008, of course, the ENTIRE west coast salmon fishery has been closed, an unprecedented event. While the issues in the Sacramento Delta were a primary motivator behind the total closure, the ongoing weakness of the Klamath fishery, dating to the 2002 fish kill, is a contributing factor.
Gordon Smith is unrepentant about his role in the fish kill:
Sen. Gordon Smith said Tuesday that he has no regrets about the diversion of water from the Klamath River that was intended to protect fish but instead went to farmers....
"I am not here to make any apologies," said Smith, who faces re-election next year. "I am proud to fight for the farmers or any group of Americans whom the federal government says has no standing, no water. I just find that offensive."...
I am not sorry for fighting for farmers. I have a responsibility for humankind.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has his own responsibility - to Californians and their jobs. To Californians who have been devastated by the salmon crisis, from Yurok and Hoopa peoples living along the Klamath whose traditional rights have been eroded, to the fishermen in towns like Fort Bragg and Monterey whose livelihoods have been put at risk so Gordon Smith could score points with a few farmers in southern Oregon.
Arnold's attendance at the fundraiser is a slap at his fellow Californians. And while it's not likely that we can convince him to cancel the event, we can fight back by donating to Jeff Merkley, the progressive Democrat running against Smith. Merkley has said that he will help save the salmon by preferencing science, not crass politics. It's a better position for us Californians than the fish and job killing of Gordon Smith that our own governor is now helping enable.