Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin’s status as a political insider who was loyal to powerful interests in the County, was largely credited for his surprise appointment to the vacant Supervisor seat last year. According to reporting from The Intercept, Galvin’s connections and loyalties extend all the way to Saudi Arabia, as he has been outed as a lobbyist for the Saudi company buying up drought-stricken Arizona’s groundwater for use in producing agricultural crops for export back to Saudi Arabia.
The revelation is not expected to sit well with his Arizona constituents as Arizona faces drought-related restrictions and Lake Powell, situated behind Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border, inches closer to dead pool.
When Thomas Galvan was named as a potential replacement for Steve Chucri on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, conservative members of the Republican Party grassroots were disappointed and surprised. Normally, replacements are chosen from the ranks of Party faithful who work tirelessly to get their fellow Republicans elected to boards and offices and the little-known Galvin was not one of them.
Still, Galvin’s appointment to replace Chucri made sense to observers who noted that he was a slavish supporter of Board policies and, as an attorney and lobbyist with a well-connected firm, he might be just the kind of loyalist the oft-under fire Board might be seeking.
Chucri resigned from the Board after he was caught sharing his opinion as to why his fellow Supervisors were narrowly re-elected and were deliberately blocking an audit of the 2020 Maricopa County General Election. He strongly implied that cheating secured their spots and a spotlight on the election could hurt them.
Galvin came up for re-election in the 2022 cycle, but the usual crowded GOP primary ballot meant the opposition vote was hopelessly divided and the establishment-backed Galvin won the Republican Primary for Supervisor District 2, and will finish the remaining 2 years of Chucri’s 4-year-term without further opposition.
Galvin lobbied on behalf of the Saudi-owned farming company, which is using Arizona’s most depleted natural resource for foreign exports.
State lobbying disclosures show that Galvin is a partner at Rose Law Group, which lobbied on behalf of a subsidiary of the Saudi corporation Almarai currently tapping U.S. groundwater in drought-stricken Arizona and California to grow alfalfa. The animal feed, which is grown in harsh desert environments, is shipped overseas to support livestock on Saudi dairy farms. In 2014, Almarai bought almost 10,000 acres of farmland in Vicksburg, Arizona, through its wholly owned subsidiary Fondomonte, spending nearly $50 million on the purchase. The near-nonexistent water regulations in La Paz County, where Vicksburg is located, mean that Fondomonte can pump vast amounts of water out of Arizona’s water table, which has declined by over 50 feet in the past two decades.
Before joining the board of supervisors, Galvin appeared at the Arizona State Legislature to lobby against H.B. 2520, a bill instructing the Arizona Department of Water Resources to monitor the wells and water levels in the Upper Colorado River water planning area. At the hearing, Galvin told Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee members, “I am not sure that this bill is right for this time right now. … I’m afraid that, if this bill passes, what we’ll be doing is singling out farms and large agricultural users. You might actually be forcing farms to release proprietary data.” The bill ultimately failed, but not before Galvin called residents concerned about foreign capital draining their aquifers, racist.
As expected, Galvin minimized his role as a lobbyist.
“My law practice consists nearly entirely of practicing land use law, and I am also a registered lobbyist with the state along with several other attorneys at Rose Law Group.” Galvin wrote in an email to The Intercept. “Lobbying is not a major aspect of my legal career and takes up little of my time in comparison to my core practice area. Rose Law Group is a registered lobbyist for Fondomonte Arizona with the state of Arizona. I am one of several attorneys at Rose Law Group that are covered under that registration.”
Whether he is or is not heavily engaged in lobbying for foreign interests, he has shown no interests in serving the water needs of Maricopa county residents, as residents of the Rio Verde Foothills would attest.
Rio Verde Foothills is an unincorporated subdivision that does not have municipal water service, nor is it currently served by a private regulated water company.
A significant portion of the Rio Verde Foothills community relies on water haulers to truck water into the area, while some residents have private wells. The water is currently being purchased from the City of Scottsdale and then trucked to the community for delivery. Scottsdale has given notice to residents that due to current drought conditions they will no longer be allowing water hauling from its standpipe beginning January 1, 2023, leaving residents with the prospect of not having access to water.
Rio Verde Foothills residents initially went to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seeking to establish a Domestic Water Improvement District (DWID); however, the Board of Supervisors voted that option down.
Instead, according to the Intercept, Galvin endorsed the idea of a privately held water utility, like the Canadian-owned EPCOR, which was also represented by Rose Law in its purchase of Johnson Utilities on behalf of landowners and home builders in and around the San Tan Valley south of Phoenix.
“So long as everyone files the right forms they get to act like what they’re doing is not corrupt or illegal,” said one County observer, “but this is the kind of cronyism that citizens just hate, because these so-called public servants are supposed to be protecting our interests, but they’re really just looking out for their clients, their friends, and each other.”