Friday, January 26, 2007

Cargill Took Taxpayers for a Ride

By Eric Simons
Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 3:27 PM

The government may have overpaid -- by a lot -- for 18,000 acres of salt ponds in the South and East Bay purchased in 2003 to convert to wetlands. If you can get past the cringeworthy headline, that's the gist of Douglas Fischer's scoop buried in the local section of today's Oakland Tribune.

Fischer got his hands on a ruling from state judge David Benjamin showing that the two appraisers who had estimated the land's value prior to the sale "cleared the way for the possible expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, based largely on unstated extraordinary assumptions and hypothetical conditions."

In the deal brokered by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Cargill sold its land for $100 million in cash, plus $143 million in tax breaks. Maybe the appraisers, both of whom were fined and censured for their role in the deal, just really valued nature.

The Cargill revelation wasn't the only bad press Feinstein has had this week. On Wednesday, the North Bay Bohemian revealed that the senator has voted for billions in military appropriations that benefited a firm owned by her husband.

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