Blackmail by Bureaucrat

The California Coastal Commission commits a good old fashioned shakedown.

Your humble correspondent does not usually read gossip or society pages; they only promote several of the Seven Deadly Sins, starting with envy and lust and going on from there.  Besides which, 99% of the time anything they say is totally irrelevant to life, the universe, and everything real.

Every now and again, though, even the beautiful people collide with the real world in a revealing way.  That just happened to Facebook billionaire Sean Parker - at his wedding, no less.  Fox News reports:

The California Coastal Commission and Parker said they have reached a $2.5 million settlement to pay for coastal conservation programs after the Napster co-founder built a large movie-set-like wedding site in an ecologically sensitive area of Big Sur without proper permits.

Now, for a celebrity-marrying billionaire like Mr. Parker, $2.5 million is chump change. Still, what on earth did he do to garner such an outlandish hit - bulldoze Old Faithful?

Not at all!  For one thing, he held his wedding on private property - "a closed campground owned by Ventana Inn & Spa."  In fact, his choice of venue seems to have spun up the bureaucrats even more:

"Despite the continued unauthorized closure of the campground to the public, earlier this year, the property owner entered into an agreement giving Sean Parker exclusive use of the campground for several months to construct a sizeable wedding venue," the commission's staff wrote in a report.

How the heck can it be "unauthorized" to close a private business?  One assumes it was losing money or else it wouldn't be closed.  It's bad enough that American entrepreneurs have to kiss the ring of the state in order to enter into business, now we have to get permission to leave it?

Speaking of business, the whole point of business is to sell your product for the highest price you can get from a willing buyer.  The campground wasn't making money as a campground; Mr. Parker appears with an undisclosed but presumably hefty check.  Of course the property owner entered into an agreement with him.  Waaah!  Waaah!  Oh, the humanity!

Well, the bureaucrats don't care two hoots about humanity, its propagation, or wedding ceremonies which at least traditionally made that possible.  They certainly don't seem to feel that the concept of "private" property even exists.  The pretext for this shakedown was that the campground was in an "ecologically sensitive area" and Mr. Parker didn't get permits for his wedding digs - which, to be fair, were somewhat more extensive than the usual wooden lattice arches and buffet tents used in our circles.

The parties reached the agreement after officials were tipped that Parker had built a cottage, fake ruins, waterfalls, staircases and a huge dance floor near iconic redwoods and a stream with threatened steelhead trout.

Let's assume for a moment that there is some plausible moral justification for bureaucrats to be concerned with temporary construction on private property and its effects on the flora and fauna thereon - though we don't really see one.  So the Green Police show up and find Mr. Parker's hardhats tromping all over the trees and flowers and chirping birds, and immediately haul them off in chains?  Not exactly:

When staff inspected, they found the temporary structures had already been built, but they allowed the wedding to proceed anyway.

The commission started negotiating a settlement with Parker and his representatives instead of shutting the event down.

"Mr. Parker has been extremely cooperative and actively involved in working with Coastal Commission staff to reach this resolution which both addresses our Coastal Act concerns and will result in greater coastal access and conservation in the Big Sur and Monterey Peninsula areas," Charles Lester, the commission's executive director, said in a statement.

Now let's think this through for a moment. Consider the fire marshal inspecting, say, a nightclub. He finds that there's no emergency lighting and that the exit doors are all chained shut, except for the front door that the big bouncer stands in.  Oh, and he sees the band rigging up pyrotechnics on the stage for their performance that night.  What is he going to do?

You'd think he'd shut the nightclub down on the spot as being an unsafe firetrap.  It's possible that he doesn't have the legal authority to do it on his own so he can't, but he'll certainly scurry around to a judge who can.

What the fire marshal is most definitely not going to do is tell the media that the nightclub owner has been a longtime contributor to the Fireman's Widow's Support Fund and that they'll be working with him over the next few months.

There's only two possibilities for the fire marshal: either the nightclub is unsafe to the point that they must Do Something Now, or it's OK.  Logically, the Green Police have the same two possibilities: either irreparable harm is being done to protected endangered species and Something Must Be Done Now - or not.

How can it be that Mr. Parker's wedding wasn't doing any harm worth stopping, but was worth shaking him down for $2.5 million?

We find the answer a little further on, and it's a truly frightening one if you're not a billionaire - or even if you are:

"So as soon as he was made aware of the Coastal Commission's concerns, he immediately stepped forward to discuss how he could protect the coastal area and resolve these issues," Zbur said in an email.

Parker also asked his guests, many of them extremely wealthy entrepreneurs and celebrities, to donate to Save the Redwoods or the California League of Conservation Voters in lieu of giving gifts, according to a program.

Since Parker did not get permits for the construction, commission staff will oversee the breakdown of the vast set so no damage is done to the environment. The commission said no major damage had yet been done, but it wanted to reach a deal quickly so the violating structures could be removed safely. [emphasis added]

Get this: no major damage had been done, and everything was already set up by the time the Green Police showed up with lights flashing.  Mr. Parker hadn't in fact hurt anything at all!  No bulldozed Old Faithful, no chopped-down thousand-year-old redwoods, not even any dead fish.  The whole thing was a crock.

But it was a profitable crock - because some high-up bureaucrat realized that Mr. Parker and his guests are "extremely wealthy entrepreneurs and celebrities" who can be hit up for big bucks.

What happened here is exactly what Al Capone used to do to businesses in Chicago: "Nice place you got here - shame if something happened to it."  And Mr. Parker sighs and says, "How much?"  The answer: $2.5 million and all your wedding presents.

If a fire marshal operated this way, we'd put him in jail for corruption at least, if not accessory to murder when the nightclub burned down and incinerated all the trapped patrons.  When environmentalist bureaucrats do this, well, that's just business as usual.  We put up with it because what they are supposedly "protecting" does not in fact actually matter.

The actions of the commission, as publicly reported, proves that their whole operation is a lie and a fraud.  If the regulations really mattered, they'd be enforced no matter how rich the guy was and how much dosh he offered.  The fact that Mr. Parker was able to write a check and make the problem go away proves that the "environmental regulations" did not address a real problem at all - they are just another opportunity created by Big Government to steal from the public.

That's fine if you're a billionaire to whom the odd few million means nothing.  That's not fine if you're an ordinary person or an ordinary business - like the Ventana Inn & Spa that rented him their venue.

They thought they'd found a happy customer who'd pay them good money to use their loss-making abandoned campground for a wedding.  Instead, whatever money they made was stolen by a thieving bureaucrat:

The Ventana is negotiating a separate settlement for allowing the construction to occur.

Mr. Parker is now happily married and still has more money than most of us.  As for the Ventana Inn & Spa, one wonders, but clearly nobody cares.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments

"All government is commerce." Henry David Thoreau
"Commerce is but the desire by one man for the ducat in the pocket on another." Mohandis K. Gandhi
Government is a fraud. We have been bamboozled into thinking that the government(s) have power. The government, any government, whether it be the government of China, Cuba, The United States or Canada, only has the power we give up.
The sick, lame and lazy go to work for the government or collect welfare checks.
The Coastal Commission is in place to take the ducat in the pocket of the working men and women who actually produce something, and put it in the pocket of the government. Then the government buys some guns to keep the producers at bay when the revolution comes - and it is coming.
Your point is well taken. The Game Warden and the Fire Marshal, the polce and the business license vendor, are all working to take our property. They do not understand that we have an inherent and natural right to our property, our earnings, and our freedom. Cruch time will soon be here, as the song goes, and they will be singing a different tune down at the bureaucrat shop. Peace, we hope, Robert Walker

June 12, 2013 11:57 AM

And the sad part of all of this is that the majority of the nation, over 80% easily in my estimation allow this to happen while turning their heads. The greenies along with the lawyers and bought off judges are fleecing us down to the marrow and we don't even wiggle. This is a horrible example of government gone wild. These same folks are screwing us to the wall with their fight against fracking. How much does that take out of each person's pocket every month?

June 12, 2013 4:22 PM

"The answer: $2.5 million and all your wedding presents."

And the wedding presents were a major part of that hit. Wealthy people tend to be generous with each other, particularly the lesser wealthy that need to impress the higher ups. If he had even only a hundred guests, he probably ended up with at least 6 figures, maybe 7.

June 13, 2013 9:47 AM

This is actually one of the better articles posted on Scragged. If I am correct, the articles presented here are to inform and enlighten. They sometimes do that, and they always make me think.
Bassboat's estimation is too low, in my estimation.
It has been said that about 20% of the world's population has evil intentions toward the rest. Of that 20% about 2% are actively working to do harm to the balance. If we take that number as close to the truth, of every 1,000 people on the planet 40 are working to harm the rest. That is 4% of the population actively working to do us in. That is not a high number. The 4% are working against each other as well.
Stellar examples of those 4% would be Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, George Soros, David Rockefeller, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Charles Manson, and etc. Their puppets are people like Barry Soetoro, John Boehner, Harry Reid, The governors of Nevada, Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and about every other governor except, possibly, Jan Brewer of Arizona.
In my estimation, if only 10% of the population were to work for the good of the whole, and in opposition to those in the New World Order, we would win in the next six months. It takes but a little bit of work.
If each of the readers of this site were to commit to the same amount of time to righting our ship of State as is spent on watching sports, we could undo much of the evil that has been heaped upon us in short order.
Part of the activity so spent, of course, would be enlightening our friends, neighbors, and loved ones, gently of course, of sites like Scragged. For example, if one were to access one would learn that attorneys are disallowed from holding elective office. The research material is referenced in the article so that the reader can verify the information in very little time. Peace, Robert Walker

June 13, 2013 10:28 AM

Thanks for having the guys to name the percentage correctly. I have always used 3% of the population that causes us grief. I used 20% to not let anyone think that I was guilty of exaggerating. My hat's off to you for correcting me.

June 13, 2013 4:22 PM

Bassboat, you're welcome. The point that I have been trying to make is that we can do something about the problems.
The small percentage in power, are the most active of the 4%, if my figure is correct, so they should be easy to overcome without any violence and that is my wish. No more violence. Peace, Robert Walker

June 13, 2013 5:07 PM

Actually, the shake down here was perpetrated by Ventana, who threatened to cancel the wedding unless Parker paid the one million plus in fines the company owed for their many previous violations. The commission would have simply prosecuted and fined Ventana again, not shut the wedding down. As this happened 20 days before the wedding, which was 2 years in the planning, Parker was over a barrel. The remaining 1.5 million was "for the purchase of public easements and hiking trails in the Big Sur area and as grants for nonprofits doing conservation projects.

Parker came up with that amount on a "back of the napkin" estimate of how much it would cost to purchase easements in the Big Sur area"

I hate to suggest that Fox is not the most reliable of news sources but......

June 28, 2013 6:58 AM

supmanc, from where did the government get the power to decide that the easements were needed? How about if the government gets out of out lives and leaves us alone.
Leta the hikers build their own hiking trails. We did it when I was a kid and no one had to pay us a dime. Our trails were safe, and used by many.
The government's main job is to protect my rights and yours, not make trails in the widerness that I must pay for, whether I use them or not.
Too few people will use the trails, for the money expended.
Peace, Robert Walker

June 29, 2013 12:16 PM

"from where did the government get the power to decide that the easements were needed?"

Popular mandate. Just because you disagree doesn't mean that everybody else does. The money was donated by a private citizen so the use it is put to is pretty much up to that citizen...

"Leta the hikers build their own hiking trails. We did it when I was a kid and no one had to pay us a dime. Our trails were safe, and used by many"

Where should the hikers build their trails? Without protected parks and reserves all land in the US would be privately owned and closed. I believe I know your views on trespassing....

"The government's main job is to protect my rights and yours, not make trails in the widerness that I must pay for, whether I use them or not."

Indeed, and you, and every American has the right to experience and enjoy the country that you live in. Somebody had to stand up for those rights. Again, you may not value this particular right, but others do, and feel just as strongly as you do about other rights which you cherish more dearly.

"Too few people will use the trails, for the money expended."

The trials are paid for by a charitable donation from a private citizen, therefore the cost is irrelevant. How did you come to the conclusion that too few people would use the easements?

June 29, 2013 1:23 PM

If the trails were paid for by a voluntary contribution from a public-spirited private citizen, nobody would have any problem with it. America has a long history of this sort of public good, most notably the public libraries donated by Andrew Carnegie to towns all over the country.

The problem is that the "donation" was extorted by the government. The extortion is the problem, not the donation.

June 29, 2013 1:36 PM

No, not at all, as my previous post pointed out. The Gov told Ventana that they were in violation of legal obligations, and would be subject to further penalties on top of the $1 million in past, unpaid fines. Ventana then threatened to cancel the wedding 2 years in the making unless Parker paid the past fines. Parker also agreed to pay $1.5 million for future easements etc. to smooth things over.

June 29, 2013 2:24 PM

Let's cut to the chase. The green socialist government passed laws because they could. I will cede the point that if the majority of the people want laws like that then heaven help them. This is an example of why producers are leaving the once Golden State.

June 29, 2013 3:46 PM

Laurence, A public mandate is tyranny. When one is forced to pay a fee for something that he or she will never use, is tyranny. I voluntarily donate food and clothing to the homeless and needy.
The government demands that I pay a portion of my income to support the needy. I have no say in the matter. That is tyranny. I must "donate" at the point of a gun. That is not freedom. I have the right to walk the trails, if I choose to do so. If I choose not to, that is my right. What part of 'RIGHT' don't you understand?
Patience is absolutely correct. It is the extortion that is the issue, not the money.
I have the natural right to my property (earnings). The governments at all levels, keep on telling me that I don't have that right, and they prove it by forcing me, at the point of a gun, to give up my propterty.
Part of my natural right to Liberty, is the right to dispose of my income as I see fit. But the IRS agents are now armed with AR 15 assault rifles - their definition, not mine.
It may be a State tax that is in question, but the idea that a government has first dibs on my money smacks of tyranny. Peace. Robert Walker

June 29, 2013 4:59 PM

Robert Walker,

As to your last comment, Amen.


June 29, 2013 7:50 PM

"Laurence, A public mandate is tyranny"

Only if you completely redefine the word tyranny. Granted not every person will be happy with any decision, but you cannot seriously think a state can only act with 100% approval.

" I have the right to walk the trails, if I choose to do so. If I choose not to, that is my right. What part of 'RIGHT' don't you understand?"

I think you missed my point, which is that there is little point having the right to walk the trails if there are no trails to walk! Land can be owned by the state or by private entities. If, as you seem to be suggesting, the state has no right to own land, then all land must ( or should) be privately owned. Therefore private property, will no right of access to the public. My assertion is that local, state and national parks are necessary if you are to exercise your right to walk.

However all this is besides the point, as the point I am making is that the original article is about the Gov extorting money from Parker - something that NEVER HAPPENED. In fact the extortion was committed by a Private company.

Bassboat said "The green socialist government passed laws because they could." Firstly these are not new laws, having been in force for over 100 years in some cases. Secondly, as I stated above, I believe it is beneficial for a whole state to have protected parks and wildlife reserve

I never intended this to be a debate about the morality of taxation, but I will wade in!

"The governments at all levels, keep on telling me that I don't have that right, and they prove it by forcing me, at the point of a gun, to give up my propterty."

This is not true, you do have a choice. You can leave, and find a state more amenable to your beliefs, they do exist! A society is a collective of people who, by various means, with various differing levels of cooperation, help each other to become greater than their separate selves can allow. I can understand that you don't wish to participate (even though you have the incredible good fortune to be one of 3.8% of people born in the society called the USA, a group that millions of people would and do give up everything to join), but to say that the whole society must be dismantled because you, and a very very small minority cannot accept the realities of taxation is both selfish and unfair. If you don't want to play, just go home, don't pop the ball and rip up the turf!

June 30, 2013 7:05 AM
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