31. Angie Wei
The California Labor Federation is affiliated with some 1,200 unions representing 2.1 million workers, and the Labor Fed’s legislative director is Angie Wei, who is battling for workers’ interests on so many fronts that it’s often hard to keep track. But if there’s a major union fight anywhere in the state, the chances are that Wei is somewhere close by, and a more accurate description of “legislative director” is probably “crusader.” Despite the Labor Fed’s size, Wei and her allies are really underdogs, at least financially, because anti-labor big-business interests, overall, engage in far greater political spending than labor. But labor’s ability to call out the foot soldiers in elections helps even things out, as does pushing for labor-friendly legislation in the Capitol among supportive Democrats. Those supporters usually – but not always – include Gov. Brown, there are assorted stresses within the labor movement. And that’s where Wei comes in. She also serves as chair of the California Commission on Health, Safety and Workers Compensation.
32. Rick Claussen
Rick Claussen, a principal in Redwood Pacific political consulting firm, is a veteran strategist with more than 30 years in the business who handles not only California campaigns but does national chores as well. Claussen, who leans Republican, doesn’t do candidates, he does ballot measures. He successfully managed the Proposition 11 campaign that created California’s first independent commission to draw legislative political boundaries. Two years later in 2010, he did the same thing to expand the commission’s authority to include congressional districts. That commish now is being viewed as a national model. Claussen’s successes included the defeat of Proposition 24, which would have halted a $1.4 billion business tax break, and the passage of Proposition 26, which made it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes and fees. Redwood Pacific is a joining of the firms of the Ginsberg-McLear Group and Goddard Claussen, and includes Aaron McLear (on our list, fyi), press secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
33. Eric Bauman
We spent a bit of time this year trying to figure out L.A.’s byzantine political landscape, where Democrats and labor rule, and we keep coming back to Eric C. Bauman, long-time chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party (in his seventh term now), and leader of the Assembly speaker’s L.A. branch of the Office of Member Services, which mounts political operations and which answers to the speaker. Bauman is the go-to person for Democratic issues in sprawling L.A. County, the state’s largest with more than a fourth of all California voters. Bauman’s canny political instincts, combined with what many in L.A. say is an intimidating manner, has scored numerous successes – and he’ll likely have more this year.
34. Jim Brulte
Jim Brulte, who knows GOP politics from the ground up, is the head of the California Republican Party which, despite the Reeps’ voter-registration deficit, has stabilized and appears to have shrugged off the insolvency that dogged the party a couple of years ago. Brulte can claim much of the credit. He knows what makes winning campaigns and he knows how to convince donors to pony up – Charles Munger Jr. is a significant example. Brulte was GOP leader in both the Senate and Assembly, and he has the street cred among Republicans to crack the whip. His first hire as chair was Cynthia Bryant to run the day-to-day, and his choice drew kudos. Brulte needs a message that will knit the party, drive a wedge into Democrats and have the Reeps stand for something more than no taxes for big business. Immigration? Public Pensions? Whatever it is, he’ll find it.
35. Kevin Sloat
Veteran lobbyist Kevin Sloat had a tough year: He got socked with a $133,500 fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission for violations of the rules governing gift-giving to elected officials. Despite the spanking, however, his reputation in Sacramento as a top lobbyist is strong, even though some clients left since February, when the fine-settlement was announced. His list of about 40 clients includes the California Chamber of Commerce, Anthem Blue Cross, Pacific Gas & Electric, Anheuser-Busch, the California Trucking Association and DirecTV. Sloat and his firm – Sloat Higgens Jensen — have ties to both Republican and Democratic administrations, and that wide network of contacts is especially useful now.
36. Lou Paulson
One reason why the California electorate, despite the early predictions of pundits, approved Gov. Brown’s effort to raise taxes two years ago is Lou Paulson, who for the past decade has run the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters. Paulson chaired the labor coalition, the Alliance for a Better California, took out Proposition 32, which sought to cripple the unions’ ability to raise money. That helped Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised money through temporary tax hikes to keep the government afloat. It’s the kind of labor-business hardball politics common in Sacramento, and the CPF seems to be in most of the battles. One of CPF’s strengths is that almost everybody – the public, the lawmakers, the kids in school – love firefighters. But that seems to evaporate each year at budget time when politicians look for places to cut, and that’s when Paulson steps in.
37. Lyn “Nay” Valbuena
Lyn Valbuena is newly elected chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and chair of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations – roles that put her at the center of tribal issues in state politics. Many in the tribal communities see her as a shrewd negotiator and a peace maker, attributes that prove crucial in negotiating such volatile, pocketbook issues for the tribes as online gaming. TASIN has both gaming and non-gaming members, so Valbuena deals not only with gaming issues, as well as social, tribal sovereignty, economic development and cultural issues as well. For Valbuena, being chair of San Manuel is her second trip to the plate: She served as chair in the 1990s. Valbuena also is a member of the National Indian Gaming Association.
38. Rob Lapsley
Rob Lapsley is the president of the California Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan pro-business group that is much smaller than the Chamber of Commerce but with similar goals. The Roundtable, comprised of senior executives from around the state, seeks a better business climate and includes improvements in infrastructure and public education as a way to get there. The group also favors easing regulations and a tax overhaul – common themes of most business groups – but the Roundtable also has a strong research component, in part to serve as a basis for any legislation it may support, and seems to eschew the marketing rhetoric of “job killer bills” so favored by the Chamber – and others. Lapsley, a former vice president of the Chamber, ran JobsPac, the Chamber’s powerful political arm and independent expenditure committee. Lapsley, an Air Force veteran, earlier served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Bill Jones.
39. Mark Macarro
The question of tribal gaming has been a public policy debate in California for a generation, but there is little doubt that over time, public acceptance of tribal gaming has increased. One reason for that change is Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who was on the ground floor of making tribal gaming acceptable to the public: He supported critical ballot propositions and he put the issue front and center in the Capitol. The discussion is not limited to reservation gaming: The decision by lawmakers to approve an off-reservation casino near Madera – now the subject of a referendum — may serve as a template for other off-reservation facilities across California. Macarro has been described as a successor to the mantle of Richard Milanovich, the legendary chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died in 2012. Negotiations this year over an internet poker bill came to a halt just before our Top 100 Book went to press, but the word is that they will start up again next year.
40. V. John White
V. John White is the veteran executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and a lobbyist for a number of alternative-energy companies, which means he not only spreads the gospel for solar power and conservation, but also serves as an advocate for their use. White – “V. John” in the Capitol – is a walking encyclopedia of all things energy related. If the issue is energy, “V. John” either created it, knows about it, has something to do with it or is lobbying for or against it. The demand for White’s expertise can only increase exponentially because of increasing debates over fossil fuels, concerns about climate change, the search for ever-cleaner alternative energy sources, the increasing public support for alternative energy, and the like. It’s a billion-dollar landscape and it seems to be getting larger. And while nobody has ever tracked this, our guess is that V. John has the most frequent flyer miles of anyone in Sacramento lobbying community.