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Voice: South Carolina state senator tells Feinstein she is out of line

June 11, 2002

Dear Sen. Feinstein,

A letter that you recently wrote to the Imperial Irrigation District has been circulating to landowners throughout the United States. I feel compelled to write to you because this is one of the most egregious letters I have ever seen from an elected official to her constituents.

In my part of the country we actually acknowledge our U.S. Constitution, particularly the taking clause, which states: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

You state, amongst other threatening remarks, in your letter to the water district, "If this were to happen, then Interior could be forced to initiate proceedings to take the water IID had planned to transfer and there would not be any compensation."

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The U.S. Constitution is in place to protect our citizens from their government. You, as an elected official and a U.S. senator, have been entrusted by the citizens of California to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, you have taken the oath of office as a U.S. senator and sworn to do so on behalf of the citizens of the United States. I, as a citizen, pray that you do so.

In your role as senator, you should force the Department of the Interior not to take IID water without just compensation.

In my role as a South Carolina senator, I attempt to find compromises to similar situations. We often find ourselves in a situation where what will benefit the entire state might harm a particular locality or citizens. I believe that it is incumbent upon me to find a compromise solution in which all sides come out ahead. When I do so, I believe that it makes me a leader and a statesmen. If I do not do so, I am not upholding the public trust that my citizens have put in me. And, if I were to violate the U.S. Constitution in the process, I would be violating my sworn oath of office and could be removed for cause.

It is my understanding that the IID is one of the most efficient water distributors in the world. Farmers and leaders from Israel have come to the Imperial Valley to learn how to build such a fine irrigation system.

After 100 years of using the Colorado River water for an incredible beneficial use — producing food for our country — you are threatening the district with stealing its water. You are demanding that farmers — your own constituents and citizens — fallow their land because you think the water should be used elsewhere in California. And you are threatening the farmers and all the citizens of Imperial Valley with taking their water and their livelihood without just compensation if they do not do what you want.

I find your approach remarkable, particularly considering your office.

I trust that you did not actually intend to threaten your own citizens. I trust that you value all parts of the California and want to see the Imperial Valley thrive and be a productive resource for the United States as it has been for the past century. I trust that you believe in the U.S. Constitution and have every intention of honoring your oath of office as a U.S. senator.

As a fellow elected official, I fully understand how we get pressured into a situation before we understand all of the facts or have the time to fully review a situation. I have been in these situations myself and often have to step back from the situations and find solutions that do not violate my U.S. and state constitutions. Usually, I find that I can make most of my constituents happy in the process. I think that is why our country has survived so well for the past two hundred years under our wonderful Constitution.

In hope this letter is a help to you on this issue. I look forward to meeting you someday.

JOHN R. KUHN

State senator

South Carolina

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