There’s so much going on in the Capitol and the political community that targets it – the trade groups, the lobbyists, the bureaucracy, the consultants – that no list of names can really capture the energy.
But except for some last-minute hysteria and juggling, we’re pretty happy with this list: It gives you an idea of who’s doing what to whom and why, which is the whole point.
Some people who were on last year are missing this time around because they are doing different things and others are absent because their functions changed. Still others we simply couldn’t squeeze in, such as Parke Skelton, Jamie Court, Joel Fox and Wendy Mitchell. Their 15 minutes of Capitol Weekly fame, such as it is, will have to wait until next year. To see the list of 51-100, which we posted last week, click here.
Some final thoughts:
--Billionaires are becoming political activists in a major way and this list reflects it.
--We reduced the number of fund raisers, in part to provide slots for new people who we felt should be listed.
--As a special interest, labor continues to be a dominant force, a trend that typically accelerates with a Democratic governor.
--Clout in the government often – but not always -- follows proximity to the governor, so the top end of the list includes people close to Brown. It also depends on who’s handling the big issue of the day. A notable example: Marty Morganstern, who is No. 4.
So there you have it.
Roll the drums and we’ll see you next year …
1. Anne Gust Brown Anne Gust Brown, the governor’s wife and special adviser, is a strong force in the Capitol and profoundly influences the governor’s decisions on policy. She is organized, detail-driven, outspoken, funny, prone to snarl and, on occasion, has even shushed her hubby to make a point – no mean feat. She was chief financial officer at the Gap and she seems to have brought command and control to the administration in a way that didn’t exist during his first stint as governor.
2. Joe Nuñez The California Teachers Association remains the most powerful single interest in the state and Joe Nuñez moves the CTA’s power around. His official title is associate executive director for government relations, but what he really does is back the teachers’ political friends and punish their enemies – and they have a lot of both. The CTA, which represents some 340,000 teachers, was instrumental in helping Brown get elected, and since then they have fought on his behalf, including statewide radio spots opposing budget cuts. He’s sort of the Avis Rent-a-Car of Capitol Weekly’s 100 List – he's always No. 2.
3. Nancy McFadden Nancy McFadden, executive secretary to Gov. Brown, is an experienced political player who is no stranger to victories – or defeats. She was a top political strategist for PG&E and she’s been in and out of the Capitol for years. Under Brown, she serves as a top staff administrator and a key political adviser. Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but they agree on this: She has one of sharpest political minds in the Capitol.
4. Marty Morgenstern
Marty Morgenstern, the architect of this year’s overhaul of the $16 billion workers’ compensation insurance system, is the governor’s top adviser on labor policy – a big deal in an administration that owes a lot to labor. One can see why. He was Gray Davis’ personnel director for Davis’ entire governorship, and he served Brown for eight years during the latter’s first two terms. Morgenstern, who started out as a shop steward in Harlem, also had stints with AFSCME and CSEA. He’s got Brown’s ear on all things labor.
5. Diana Dooley Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley has emerged as a significant force for Brown, who named her Health and Human Services Secretary as his first major appointment. And she also serves as chair of the Health Benefit Exchange, the new panel that will provide competitive shopping for health care insurance and sway over a multibillion-dollar marketplace. The new exchange is expected to be beta-tested next year prior to its 2014 rollout, and Dooley will be in the middle of it.
6. Maria Elena Durazo
As secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Labor Federation, Maria Elena Durazo has stepped out from the shadows of her late husband, Miguel Contreras, who rose from a San Joaquin crop worker to build a powerful labor organization in the state’s most populous county. The Fed has the power to make and break candidates, and the umbrella group and its allies have served as a hatchery for powerful political leaders – including the current and former Assembly speaker, and the current L.A. mayor. Every L.A. Democrat in the Legislature has come to terms with the Fed – a process that shows no signs of diminishing.
7. Mary Nichols Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols is something of an institution in Sacramento. An environmental lawyer, she served Jerry Brown 30 years ago as his chair of the Air Resources Board, she worked for Gray Davis as his ranking resources adviser, then she served Arnold Schwarzenegger as ARB chair and now she’s – guess what? – ARB chair. The position makes her the most powerful air-quality regulator in the nation, much less California. She’s in the middle of the cap-and-trade program, in which emission allowances can be purchased or bartered beginning in November to meet the demands of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law, AB 32.
8. Jim Earp Aside from leading the California Alliance for Jobs, which represents 1,700 construction companies and 50,000 union workers, Earp sits on the California Transportation Commission, where he was appointed in 2007 by Schwarzenegger and reappointed last year by Brown. The Commission decides highway construction projects, which of course is right up Earp’s alley. The Alliance also has pushed for bond financing for an array of infrastructure projects, and his group has played a major role in the big-dollar discussions over air-quality rules for diesel equipment. In an ailing economy, Earp’s company-labor combo is a particularly potent force.
9. Allan Zaremberg California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg, a lawyer and a protégé of former Gov. George Deukmejian, has deep Republican roots. But he has demonstrated an ability to spend political cash and curry favor from governors of whatever political stripe, which invariably places the Chamber near the top of the political pecking order. An ally of Pete Wilson, Zaremberg later become just as close – perhaps closer – to former Gov. Gray Davis, who was booted in the 2003 recall. Then, Zaremberg deftly worked the incoming Schwarzenegger administration until, as we noted last year, the Chamber became a de facto arm of the governor’s office. Now Jerry Brown is in power and Zaremberg has his work cut out for him. But one reason why Zaremberg earns his nice salary – the buzz is that his pay has hit $1 million – is that he knows how to get close to new governors.
10. Mac Taylor If there’s any state entity or person that deserves the thanks of taxpayers, it’s Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. The LAO examines the budget line by line and cuts through the smoke and mirrors. It analyzes the dollar costs of state labor contracts, ballot initiatives, education and social programs, tax hikes and cuts, regulatory schemes, state-local power shifts – you name it. The LAO is hired by the Legislature – which really means by the majority party – but even in the hyper-political, overheated atmosphere of the Capitol, there is scant complaining about Taylor and his first-rate staff from either side of the aisle.
11. Michael Peevey Here’s an indication of just how important PUC President Michael Peevey is: When Brown was considering wholesale changes at the Public Utilities Commission, including replacing Peevey as president, Wall Street got so nervous that Brown held back. Why? Because the PUC regulates investor-owned utilities and in the East there were fears that Brown was going to lay waste to the powerful PUC. Peevey, a former utility company top executive and an appointee of both Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, has the confidence of the utilities as well as the financial community – no mean feat. Messing with Peevey could cause problems for Brown in the Capitol, too: Peevey’s wife is Democratic Sen. Carol Liu of Glendale.
12. Mona Pasquil When Gov. Brown looked for a new appointments secretary, he found a good fit in Mona Pasquil, a former member of the Democratic National Committee, a key aide to former Gov. Gray Davis and an experienced Democratic operative. In the Horseshoe she will have broad authority to recommend an estimated 3,000 administration appointments, a key role in any administration. In Brown’s case, it may be a frustrating one, too: The governor has not been moving at warp speed to fill the vacancies in the administration, a pace that has been made tougher by tight budgets.
13. Ana Matasantos
The Finance Department director heads the staff that writes the governor’s budgets, passes judgment on the state agencies’ wish lists and explains the administration’s fiscal policies to the public and Legislature. Matosantos is a career Finance Department employee who served a year as Schwarzenegger's finance director and, before that, as chief deputy director for budgets. The youthful Matosantos – she’s in her 30s and half Brown’s age – frequently appears at Brown’s side in public to answer questions from the media or provide detailed information on the budget. When you have eight-figure shortages, there’s a lot of detail.
14. Elaine Howle As the state’s auditor, Elaine Howle crunches numbers and keeps a close eye on government operations. She also took the lead in setting up the independent commission that ultimately created the new Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and Congressional districts for the 2012 elections. That process put Howle at the center of the hyper-partisan political disputes over redistricting – an unusual position for someone accustomed to audits, performance reports and fiscal reviews. But she carried it off, relying in part on her political experience answering to the demands of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
15. Art Pulaski As head of the California Labor Federation, Art Pulaski helps shape the labor movement through his organization that represents more than 2.1 million workers in 1,200 unions. The Labor Fed is a sort of umbrella group, not a union, but it has the ability to organize action, staff phone banks, walk precincts, call statewide meetings and keep the troops focused. As executive secretary treasurer and chief officer of the Labor Fed, Pulaski is a power to be dealt with by any incoming governor – and Brown’s no exception.
16. Bill Devine
Every session, it seems, there is a big bill related to telecommunications – this time it was VoIP and the power of regulators -- and every session AT&T’s chief lobbyist Bill Devine is in the thick of the fight. As a definitive L.A. Times story pointed out, no single corporation has spent more trying to influence legislators in recent years than AT&T, and the company’s track record shows it: Victories are common, defeats are rare. Devine has figured prominently on this list since we started putting it together, in large part because of his role in the 2006 plan to deregulate cable service -- arguably the significant deregulation bill in California since the state’s flirtation with a deregulated electricity market. And we haven’t even mentioned the annual Pebble Beach golf tournament that typically raises $1 million for Democrats.
17.Aaron Read Veteran lobbyist Aaron Read of Aaron Read & Associates is one of those advocates who seems to be everywhere with a client list that seems to include everybody but Capitol Weekly, and we probably couldn’t afford him. He’s been lobbying at least since Reagan was governor and his clients have stuck with him a long time, too. He’s got doctors, police, local government, utilities (such as AT&T), pharmacists, firefighters, ranch owners, casinos – well, you get the idea.
18. Kevin Sloat Lobbyist Kevin Sloat’s client list reeks of importance, with such names as the Metroplitan Water District of Southern California, Verizon, Platinum Advisors, McKesson, Black & Decker, Cisco Systems and others. Sloat’s firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen, is a major lobbying force. In part, that’s because Sloat has worked on both sides of the building in the legislative and executive branches, and knows where the bodies are buried. He may have buried a few of them.
19. Dustin Corcoran Dustin Corcoran heads the staff of the California Medical Association and worked his way up from the ranks through the lobbying operation under the late Steve Thompson to lead the CMA at a time of great changes in health care. The CMA, long a powerful force in the Capitol, has political smarts and is not afraid of a fight – or a campaign. The CMA played a pivotal role in the legislative passage of a sweeping health care reform plan – which later was rejected at the ballot box – and one if its hot issues now is fighting more than $11 billion in potential Medicare cuts.
20. Jeff Miller When you really know money and you really know politics, you’re much in demand in the Capitol. Lobbyist Jeff Miller, a partner in Capitol Advocacy and formerly the chief financial officer for the Republican Party, definitely qualifies. When Republicans want to move major money from Point A to Point B, Miller is the go-to person. He used to handle finances for assorted members in the Capitol, and he served a stint as an Assembly consultant.
21. Willie Pelote Sr. AFSCME, like most of organized labor, has a friend in the governor’s office for the first time in years and Willie Pelote Sr. intends to make the most of it. AFSCME parted ways with Brown over his attempt to abolish redevelopment agencies, but on virtually every other major issue, AFSCME is in sync with the governor. Pelote’s Capitol savvy – years ago he worked as a sergeant at arms – is paying dividends now.
22. Gale Kaufman Gale Kaufman, who founded her political strategy firm 25 years ago, is the Democrats’ No. 1 ballot measure warrior in California. By one estimate, she has handled some six dozen campaigns, including the destruction of the core of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot plans – a feat that earned her the title of Campaign Manager of the Year in 2006 from a group of international political consultants. Her specialty is protecting labor from corporations, and this year she is managing the campaign to defeat Proposition 32, which is aimed at curbing the unions’ ability to raise campaign cash.
23. Dave Low Dave Low has been at the California School Employees Association for 30 years and rose to executive director. In addition to staff management, his interests include legislative and political issues for CSEA, which represents over 200,000 classified employees in California's public schools, community colleges and peace officers in the California State Universities. He’s also chairman of Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security, which has taken the lead in the fight against rolling back public pensions.
24. Kip Lipper Kip Lipper is the environmental policy guru for the Senate, and every major piece of environmental legislation has his fingerprints -- and many of the minor ones, too. Lipper was a long-time aide to former Sen. Byron Sher, a deal-cutting icon to environmentalists in the arena of policy making. This year, he cast a wary eye on attempts to ease CEQA, and he’s in a perpetual struggle to fight the erosion of the powers of environmental regulatory bodies or attempts to streamline statutes in order to give polluters a pass. He analyzes legislation, brokers agreements, serves as the Senate’s environmental conscience and does myriad chores. In the Capitol, when he’s signed off on a bill, it’s been “Lipperized.”
25. Molly Munger
Civil rights attorney Molly Munger, a former federal prosecutor and business litigator, co-founded a social and political reform group called the Advancement Project and has been a legal-political activist for years. But it wasn’t until recently that she captured wider attention for pushing Proposition 38, which would boost income taxes and use the money – perhaps $10 billion – for public schools. The governor has a rival tax initiative on the ballot and demanded that Munger remove hers or join his. She didn’t -- she went eyeball to eyeball with the governor but didn’t blink.
26. Carl Guardino
For the past 15 years, Carl Guardino heads the trade association known as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents more than 300 of Silicon Valley’s most important companies. Before the SVLG, Guardino was an executive at HP, and he cut his political teeth in the Capitol on the staff of former Assemblyman Rusty Areias, a Los Banos Democrat. Former Gov. Arnold Schwazenegger, a Republican, put Guardino on the California Transportation Commission, one of the most important bodies in the state that holds sway over billions of dollars in funding.
27. Phil Isenberg
If the term “renaissance man” describes anyone in or near the Capitol, the best fit probably would be Phil Isenberg, a former mayor of Sacramento, a former Assembly member and top lieutenant to then-Speaker Willie Brown, a former lobbyist, a devoted art lover and patron and now the chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, the powerful board that is shaping the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the potential movement of vast quantities of Northern California water to the south.
28. Rex Frazier Rex Frazier is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, a trade group that represents only a handful of insurers, but they include some heavy hitters – such as State Farm, Mercury and Farmers. Frazier is a lawyer by training and a political junkie by temperament, and his job is to make sure that PIF protects its own and backs candidates helpful, or at least not hostile, to his industry. Frazier, a lawyer, is an aggressive practitioner of the political arts and his members give him the resources to back his judgment.
29.Shawnda Westly As executive director of the California Democratic Party and Chairman John Burton’s key aide, Westly is in a pivotal position. In the Capitol, the general feeling is that Westly is the reason that the state Democratic Party is well organized, quite an achievement given that Democrats traditionally are a hard-to-manage lot. She combines managerial and organizational skills with political acumen and communications savvy – a potent mix in politics.
30. Scott Wetch Wetch of Carter Wetch and Associates is the go-to person for the pipe trades and electrical workers unions, among a host of other clients. His unions have gone contrary to many other powerful labor groups on key issues like the implementation of the state’s greenhouse gas law. He also successfully pushed for the right of school employees to administer emergency medication to students suffering from epileptic seizures – a position that put him up against the California Nurses Association in a truly bitter fight.
31. Angie Wei Whatever Angie Wei’s title is at the California Labor Federation – now it’s legislative director, it was acting chief of staff – her function is to advocate on behalf of organized labor and in doing that, she has gained a reputation as an effective, go-to person on the crusade to protect union workers’ rights. With assorted stresses in the labor movement stemming from Gov. Brown’s policies, and the intensifying effort to trim pensions, public and private, Wei is in the thick of the political fight. Since the Labor Fed represents more than 1,200 unions and 2.1 million workers, she carries muscle.
32. Donna Lucas
Communications consultant Donna Lucas learned the insides of the Capitol during the Deukmejian administration, and she learned her lessons well: Since then she has developed into a major communications force, and the go-to person for companies and people (State Fund, Chevron, Maria Shriver) looking for communications advice and strategy. She’s also got a role in yet another one of those Capitol family power cabals – her brother is Senate enviro guru Kip Lipper and her husband is former Chronicle Sacramento Bureau Chief Greg Lucas, perhaps the best-sourced newsie in the Capitol. Greg, by the way, is a contributing editor to Capitol Weekly and hosts our “Politics on Tap” TV show.
33. Barry Broad
Barry Broad is an attorney and adventure novelist, but he’s also a major labor lobbyist, and it is that last role that makes him a significant player in the Capitol’s political wars. His client list includes the Teamsters Public Affairs Council, the Jockeys Guild, the Unite Here International Union, some public-employee unions and others, even some corporate clients, too. But from first to last, Broad is a canny advocate who usually is at Ground Zero in the Capitol’s labor fights.
34. Rob Lapsley
As the former vice president for public affairs at the California Chamber of Commerce, Rob Lapsley ran JobsPac, the Chamber’s powerful, aggressive pro-business political arm and independent expenditure committee. Lapsley now is the President of the California Business Roundtable, which advocates for pro-business policy, provides research and weighs in frequently on legislative issues affecting major businesses.
35. Kathy Dresslar As chief of staff to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, Dresslar is at the administrative core of the leader’s office. Her role is not so much to develop policy, but to coordinate action and get things done, and in that she is Steinberg’s eyes and ears. This is no easy feat, given that there has been an exodus of top talent from the Senate in recent years – Brian Kelly and David Panush, for example.
36. Steve Burns We think one of the toughest jobs in the Capitol community is representing a heavy-hitter in the petroleum industry when fuel prices are going through the roof, you’ve got refinery fires, CEQA is uncertain, tax activists want to establish a severance tax and you’ve got a governor who’s not easy to read. But Chevron’s low-key and effective Steve Burns juggles it all and works behind the scenes to broker deals. He likes to keep achievements quiet, and most people seem to like that – except reporters.
37. John Laird
As Resources Secretary, John Laird is a key environmental player in the Brown administration, and it’s a good fit. Laird, a cabinet-level adviser to the governor, knows money and he knows the environment. A former chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Laird also headed committees on the environment and toxics, and chaired the select committee on water and climate change. Before he was an elected lawmaker, he was a key legislative staffer handling the state budget. Aside from his role at the top of the Resources Agency, Laird also knows how the Capitol works and how to twist arms – something he does gently.
38. Lou Paulson
For the past eight years, Lou Paulson has headed the California Professional Firefighters, which represents about 30,000 members across the state. The CPF is aggressive, politically savvy and well organized, and Paulson is a key reason why. He also heads the campaign to block Proposition 32, a largely business-backed attempt to cut into the unions’ ability to raise cash for political purposes. The measure is one of the hottest issues on the November ballot and represents the latest effort to target labor’s political clout.
39. Terry Brennand SEIU is a pervasive force in California politics and the key instrument of SEIU’s political operation is Terry Brennand, who sports the fancy title of Senior Government Relations Manager. Behind the title is a strategist with a keen eye and a sharp elbow, and he carries a clear perception of the enemy. He also knows how to negotiate a deal - a treasured commodity in the Capitol - and he doesn't shrink from a fight, which is good because SEIU seems to be in a lot of them.
40. V. John White
V. John White is the executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and if the issue involves energy, any kind of energy, “V. John” either knows about it, has something to do with it or is lobbying for or against it. His specialty is renewable and alternative energy, and as California expands its renewable portfolio he’s at the center of the action in multibillion-dollar industry. He’s also an inveterate traveler and we’re convinced has more frequent flier miles than anybody in Sacramento.
41. Stewart Resnick The Los Angeles-based Stewart Resnick, a billionaire, often is described as simply a producer of nuts and produce, but he’s much more. He’s veteran political force and has given to Republicans and Democrats alike. With his vast farms in the Central Valley – Paramount Citrus and Paramount Farms – Resnick is a player in California’s water wars. Resnick’s Roll International Corp. also has interests in Suterra LLC, an Oregon pesticide company that makes the compound known commercially as Checkmate.
42. Dorothy Rothrock
Pushing for business-friendly legislation is a cottage industry in the Capitol and a difficult one: When you’ve got heavy Democratic majorities in both houses and a Democratic governor, your work is cut out for you. One of the veteran warriors here is Dorothy Rothrock, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association’s front-line advocate who has won some, lost some, but who always shows up for the fight. She and her boss, Jack Stewart, represent the heft of some 30,000 companies and 1.5 million employees. Numbers count in the Capitol, and those are big numbers.
43. Ann Ravel
A former member of the Obama Administration’s justice department and former county counsel in Santa Clara County, Ann Ravel is the chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission. As such, she’s the state’s political watchdog, and during the past year she’s bared her fangs, whether it’s seeking greater disclosure for independent expenditure committees or trying to force bloggers and social media mavens to disclose who is funding their online political shots. Her operating style is to go after the big issues and not sweat the small stuff that traditionally has been the bane of the FPPC’s limited staff.
44. Mark Macarro Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians was on the ground floor of making tribal gaming acceptable to the public in California: He backed critical ballot propositions and he put the issue front and center in the Capitol. The gaming tribes wield significant influence in the Capitol and Pechanga is no exception. Issues include tribal gaming compacts, which the tribes will have to negotiate with the governor, and a new round of debates in 2013 over online gaming and sports wagering.
45. David Quintana
David Quintana was instrumental in building the California Tribal Business Alliance into a Capitol political force, and the Alliance clearly remains a potent group, particularly in the high-stakes political battles over casino and online gaming. A key to success in the Capitol is the ability to negotiate and Quintana, an aggressive attorney, and the Alliance have learned the ropes. The bottom line: The Alliance is here to stay.
46. Lyn Valbuena
Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, a tribal member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, is chairwoman of TASIN, the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, which includes 12 federally recognized tribes in California. It is one of California’s most important tribal groups and wields political clout in the Capitol on issues that include – but is not limited to – online gaming and social issues, including tribal rights. She also has held key positions in the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C.
47. Jacob Mejia
In the Capitol, when you think of TASIN, you invariably think of Jacob Mejia, the group’s executive director. Titles aside, Mejia actually wears two hats, one as executive director and another as communications adviser, and both fit well. His headquarters actually is in the Inland Empire, but he keeps careful tabs on the Capitol – especially on any legislation, in print or otherwise, that has an impact on his members.
48. Phil Anschutz
Phil Anschutz is a billionaire developer and newspaper owner and he is the driving force behind a new NFL stadium in Los Angeles. Building a stadium entails a lot more than blueprints and construction – it also requires political acumen to navigate a labyrinth of zoning and environmental laws, especially state environmental rules, and the ability to deal with hostile forces. Anschutz has both.
49. Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer, the founder of Farrallon Capitol Management, came to the Capitol’s attention when he led a campaign to block Proposition 23, an industry-backed attempt to suspend AB 32, the state’s landmark law curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In May, Steyer put $20 million into Proposition 39, which would close a corporate tax loophole that was approved in 2009 during the Schwarzenegger administration. Steyer, who has signed Warren Buffet’s pledge to donate half his fortune to good causes, is raising speculation in the Capitol that he intends to run for governor or U.S. Senate. Stay tuned.
50. Nicolas Berggruen
Early on, Berggruen was dubbed the “homeless billionaire” for his penchant for hotels rather than homes, and the nickname stuck. He created the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, which has a blue-chip cast of participants, including former speakers Bob Hertzberg and Willie Brown, money maven Gerald Parsky, billionaire businessman Eli Broad and L.A. County labor leader Maria Elena Durazo. As a political player, he set up the Think Long Committee for California, a combination research and reform group aimed at offering recommendations for improving California governance.
Ed's Note: Corrects title of Dave Low in item 23 to executive director.