It’s time again for Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 list, as subjective a ranking as exists anywhere in politics, and one that sparks wildy diverse reactions – even some that are positive.
“Dear God, you’re not doing that again,” said one. “You’ve got people on that list who haven’t been in the building (Capitol) in years… go get some new blood!” snapped another. “Who the hell is ____?” said another. “This is great! Our staff uses it for sourcing,” said still another.
There are 22 people new to this year’s ranking compared with 2016 — changes that we believe reflect political and policy developments in the Capitol. And for those who aren’t on the list this time around: Some retired, some got new gigs, and some just weren’t as central to the political zeitgeist as they were last year. Others have simply moved up or down the ranks.
The biggest single change is in our No. 1 position, which is held this year by Gov. Brown’s chief of staff, Nancy McFadden.
We still look at the Top 100 list as a fun, though exhausting, chore. But our happiest moment is when it’s done and our vast full-time staff of three can take some time (OK, a day) off.
–Former Capitol Weekly Editor Anthony York – the guy who had the bright idea of creating this list in the first place, and who hasn’t been with CW in years – said he still gets calls from people wanting inside info about the list. “That’s quite a turd I left in your punch bowl,” he told me recently.
–Figuring out the “horseshoe,” the administration’s inner sanctum is still as difficult for us as when we first started.
–No. 100 on this year’s list is retiring federal judge Thelton Henderson, who has had a profound impact on California and its prison system. His appearance is long, long overdue.
Interns Anna Frazier of the University of Arizona and Jessica Duncan of the University of Alabama helped greatly with this list. Capitol Weekly’s internship program is one of the things we’re most proud of around here; under the guidance of Capitol Weekly staff, interns learn sourcing, how to report on complex and evolving public policy issues, and how to craft a story for publication. I think they even had fun. Many thanks to both for their fine work.
As for this year’s cover: After Sutter Brown’s star turn on the front of last year’s Top 100 Book, we wanted to do something really different. Tim Foster came up with the concept of revisiting The Beatles’ classic Sgt. Pepper’s album, which came out fifty years ago this summer. Special kudos to Judd Hertzler, Capitol Weekly’s longtime graphic designer, who did all the hard work putting it together.
And, yes, we know Greg Lucas beat us to the idea by a few years. But we paid him back: He’s on the cover. By the way, if you can’t name all the players, don’t worry: We’ve posted a guide here to help you out.
Finally, thanks again to Stockton artist Chris Shary, who produced those wonderful line drawings under difficult deadline pressures.
Now on to the list … (click on the names to see the drawings.)
1. Nancy McFadden
Nancy McFadden, chief of staff to the governor, is at the top of this year’s list, and here’s why: She shapes every major political and policy issue that emerges from the administration and manages the staff to get it done. Whether it’s extending the state’s cap-and-trade program or pushing for new revenue to overhaul the state’s crumbling infrastructure – the two biggest issues of the year for the Brown administration — McFadden was at ground zero when the deals were cut. Indeed, she seems to be everywhere when negotiations reach critical mass, and nothing happens unless McFadden signs off on it. McFadden works out of the “horseshoe” – the suite of offices inside the Capitol housing key administration officials – so she has a relatively low public profile. Even among reporters and others who follow state politics and the Capitol, McFadden is largely invisible and rarely quoted. She also doesn’t return phone calls and emails – at least to us. But her presence is felt throughout the government, in both policy and personnel, and her fingerprints are everywhere. McFadden has been in and out of state and federal government over the years, and came to the Brown administration after a strategy stint as senior VP at PG&E. She later brought some former PG&E colleagues into the horseshoe, and they rose to major positions as well. She was a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, and before that she was deputy chief of staff to Al Gore. McFadden also served as general counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Clinton Administration. Her blend of policy and politics experience is pure gold in government, where every major decision is part politics, part policy and part communications spin.
2. Anne Gust Brown
It’s tricky to describe Anne Gust Brown’s official title. First Lady? Special Counsel? Adviser? All of the above? In any case, the influence she wields over husband Jerry Brown affects much that goes on in the Golden State, and she’s been at the top of this list since Brown returned to the governor’s office. But this year we’ve listed her as No. 2, in part because we’re told she’s diverting some of her attention away from governance and politics to focus on issues relating to the Brown family property near Colusa, which includes a 2,500-acre ranch. Clearly, she’s still involved, just not to the degree that she was earlier in the administration. While the governor’s veto or signature can often be difficult to predict, Gust Brown’s insight is always a part of his policy considerations. Gust Brown’s name was floated in the Capitol when Gov. Brown was seeking an A. G. to replace Kamala Harris. When the Sacramento Bee asked the governor if his wife was in the running for the gig, he simply replied, “My wife is fully employed.”
3. Mary Nichols
Mary Nichols, California’s top air-quality enforcer and Gov. Brown’s longtime environmental adviser, has overseen California’s cap-and-trade program since its beginning. As chair of the California Air Resources Board, she is a more than a state leader in the fight against air pollution: She is a national figure whose recognition has only increased since the recent battle in the Legislature over extending California’s cap-and-trade program – a battle that the Brown administration won after a no-holds-barred political fight. For Nichols, a former lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, battles over the environment are not new. She’s been on the front lines against smog since Jerry Brown’s early years as governor, and from 1979 to 1983 she headed the ARB. She served as Resources Secretary under Gray Davis, and was appointed – again – chair of the ARB in 2007 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She is still in that position as Brown approaches the final year of his fourth term as governor, and she is likely to play a role in any future administration that proclaims an interest in keeping California’s air clean or in curbing greenhouse gases.
4. Diana Dooley
Diana Dooley has been right by Gov. Brown’s side since the beginning of it all. During his first two terms, she served as legislative secretary and special assistant. Dooley – Brown’s first appointee when he was elected to a third term in 2010 – now serves in his cabinet as the secretary of Health and Human Services. But she also chairs the board of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange. That means she is making decisions about the way the Affordable Care Act is put into effect in California. It’s been a bumpy road, and it may get bumpier: Anthem Blue Cross, the nation’s largest health insurer, said it was pulling out of most of the state’s individual markets. There have been double-digit rate increases two years in a row, and on top of that, Congress – again – is talking about rewriting all of federal health care law. Dooley has been a calming force to those concerned about health care since the new president took office in January.
5. Mac Taylor
Want to know what’s really in the budget? Look no further. The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Analyst, headed by Mac Taylor, is the go-to place for anyone looking to understand the nitty-gritty of California’s budget, the fiscal impact of ballot initiatives and an array of budget-related topics. He’s hired by the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, but Taylor is respected on both sides of the aisle, and when it comes to advising lawmakers on how to spend money, the LAO swings a lot of weight. Taylor rose through the ranks at the LAO – he’s been there nearly four decades – and he’s a familiar figure in the Capitol, which is just across the street from his perch at 10th and L. Taylor also serves on the Statewide Leadership Council of the Public Policy Institute of California, an organization dedicated to informing and improving public policy in the state. A classmate of his from UC Riverside once tagged him as “dispassionate” – not so good if you’re a Flamenco dancer, but perfect if you analyze public spending amid the hyperbole of the Capitol’s political world.
6. Robbie Hunter
Robbie Hunter has had a good year. Hunter, the president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, was a key player in SB 1, the bill to raise fuel taxes to fix California’s deteriorating roads, highways and bridges. Hunter’s group is affiliated with 160 local unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers in 14 trades, and when projects such as those funded by SB 1 get built, those workers get jobs. Hunter emigrated to America as a teenager from Ireland – you can still catch his brogue when he gets excited – and entered the construction world as an ironworker. A photo in Hunter’s office shows him, around 1992, working on what would become the tallest building in California — the Liberty Tower. Hunter went on to become the president of Iron Workers Local 433 in 2002 before moving on to his current role in 2012. Unions must run in Hunter’s blood — his great-grandfather helped to organize a union in 1906.
7. Elaine Howle
Elaine Howle, who has been the state’s chief auditor for 17 years, follows the money and this year she followed it straight to the University of California where she found numerous problems with the institution’s budgeting. Howle’s scathing April report – “scathing” is an understatement – was only the most visible of the audits her office does routinely, year in and year out, of state agencies. The Bureau of State Audits also runs a hot line that people can call if they spot abuses. She has checked state finances through three administrations and has earned respect from both Republicans and Democrats. Howle, who got her MBA from Sacramento State, has more than three decades of auditing and leadership experience in the Auditor’s office. She reports to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which commissions audits, and has taken initiative to examine redistricting, the prison system, water project financing, the State Bar, technology contracts, state university oversight, and an array of other issues.
8. Eric Bauman
Eric C. Bauman was elected Chair of the California Democratic Party in May 2017, following a bitter battle for the chairmanship between Bauman and Kimberly Ellis. A longtime CDP leader, he had previously served as Vice Chair from 2009-2017, and as chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party for the past 17 years. In his new position, Bauman will decide where the state party puts its resources – a big, big deal in a state with 44% Dem registration and a solid donor base. A native of the Bronx, New York, he moved to California and became a registered nurse, working in inner-city emergency rooms and intensive care units during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He eventually became a labor organizer, working to unionize other nurses. His experience as a healthcare provider made him an invaluable policy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, former Insurance Commissioner and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, and Assembly Speakers John A. Pérez, Toni Atkins and Anthony Rendon. He lives in North Hollywood with his husband Michael, his late mother’s partner Trisha, and his dog, Moe.
9. Angie Wei
Angie Wei is the chief of staff for the California Labor Federation, the backbone of California’s organized labor community, which means she can – and does – exert serious political clout. Last year’s victories included the passage of a $15 minimum wage and increase in overtime pay for farm workers. Wei was one of those who brought labor to the table in discussions about marijuana legalization with the passage of Proposition 64 last year – a critical issue for labor. As a key player in the umbrella organization linked to California’s 1,200 AFL-CIO chapters that represent 2.1 million workers, Wei, a deft organizer, can get boots on the ground in critical political campaigns. Wei also is the chair of the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, a key position dealing with the management and legislative changes to the state workers’ compensation insurance system, and workplace safety – all issues of import to organized labor.
10. Allan Zaremberg
The 13,000-member California Chamber of Commerce, headed by President and CEO Allan Zaremberg, is a deep-pockets political force in Sacramento and has been for decades. Zaremberg is a Republican with strong ties to earlier GOP administrations, but he crosses the aisle on specific issues. In November, for example, he joined Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the construction trades to oppose Proposition 53 on the November ballot, which would have required public works projects using $2 billion or more in revenue bonds to go before a vote of the people. The measure, by Stockton farmer and millionaire Dino Cortopassi, was rejected. Zaremberg was head lobbyist for Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, and he performed the same function at the Chamber before taking the top job in 1998.
11. Bill Devine
Ask any Capitol denizen what companies consistently maintain the tightest grasp on California’s levers of power and inevitably AT&T appears at the top of the list. Bill Devine is AT&T’s Field General in Sacramento, and his influence is only growing with AT&T’s 2015 acquisition of El Segundo-based DirecTV and pending merger with Time Warner. Devine was a driving force in the year’s most closely-watched telecommunications bill – legislation that would expedite the local installation of “small cell” devices necessary to expand 5G wireless statewide. The company also remains the largest individual corporate donor to candidate campaigns across the state. It is the signature sponsor of what has been – for more than a decade — the single largest legislative fundraiser, the annual Speaker’s Cup event at Pebble Beach. Devine is folksy, friendly and ubiquitous in Capitol corridors. He has every legislator on speed dial, and in an era when flashy tech companies like Airbnb and Uber dominate the headlines, no company has left a greater footprint on technology-related public policy in California than AT&T.
12. Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly, a member of Gov. Brown’s cabinet and California’s Secretary of Transportation, is Brown’s guy on everything transportation, including his controversial, $64 billion high-speed rail project that is underway but has been riddled with conflict from the start. Kelly, Brown’s point person on transportation negotiations, savored a huge victory this year: The passage of the hotly contested SB 1, which will provide $52 billion for transportation projects — including public transit, local roads, pothole repairs and bike trails – through increases in fuel taxes. Kelly also oversees Caltrans – the huge state agency in charge of the Bay Bridge and the thousands of miles of state roads and highways. Kelly was fresh out of college when he began working for the Democratic Caucus in 1994; he was only there a year before he moved on to serving as a legislative staffer for the next four Senate leaders. He was known for having a broad policy portfolio when he left the Legislature after 17 years to join Brown’s administration.
13. Joe Nuñez
With 325,000 members and a staff of 435, the California Teachers Association commands attention in Sacramento and across the state, and much of the credit for keeping things that way belongs to Executive Director Joe Nuñez. Media coverage of the CTA centered around the Vergara teacher tenure case this year. The teachers’ union was ultimately victorious when the state Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court decision upholding existing teacher-tenure rules. It was a big win. Nuñez directed the CTA’s lobbyists for years before being elevated to executive director, but whatever his job title he maintains the CTA’s clout in Sacramento, according to numerous people we spoke to. CTA’s lobbying commander in Sacramento is Scott Day, and we’ll have to figure out where to put him on this list, too. By the way, Nuñez comes by his education credentials honestly – he was a classroom teacher for two decades before representing teachers.
14. Laphonza Butler
Are you a candidate for office? Are you a lawmaker pushing legislation? If so, SEIU State Council President Laphonza Butler is someone you want on your side. Butler was born and raised in Mississippi with a mother who worked her fingers to the bone to support her family. Butler takes her personal life to the professional stage and spends each day, she says, fighting to protect those just like her mother. The SEIU State Council represents some 700,000 workers. She’s also vice president of SEIU International and President of SEIU Local 2015. Butler played a key role in boosting pay for long-term care workers, and she was at the center of the fight to increase the minimum wage to $15 and hour. Butler, who got the troops out for Hillary Clinton last year in California, is credited for winning local and statewide approval of the $15 an hour minimum wage. She also has a journalistic streak — she writes for the Huffington Post and other outlets.
15. Jeff Kightlinger
Drought or not, water is always a critical issue in California, and Jeff Kightlinger is right in the middle of it. Kightlinger is the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the huge wholesaler that gets water to two dozen agencies serving 19 million people – half the state’s population. His big push now is to get approval for Gov. Brown’s plan to drill tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move water south through the California Aqueduct – and thence to Los Angeles. A lot is riding on the outcome of the $17.1 billion project, especially for ratepayers, who will foot much of the bill. The MWD has been involved in years of litigation with the San Diego County Water Authority – MWD’s biggest member agency – over rates and delivery issues. In June, an appeals court ruling prompted both sides to declare victory, and the upshot is that the case ultimately will go to the state Supreme Court. Fun fact: Kightlinger’s Twitter feed reveals a deep, and some might say surprising, fondness for late ‘70s punk and new wave music.
16. Lou Paulson
Protecting pensions, ensuring continued healthcare and blocking fire-protection budget cuts have long been the preoccupations of the California Professional Firefighters – and still are. But CPF President Lou Paulson and his team played a major role this year in an area that caught many by surprise – greenhouse gases. The CPF was a lead player in successfully pushing for an extension of California’s cap-and-trade program, Gov. Brown’s highest legislative priority this year. The firefighters drew connections between global warming and fire danger, and mounted a major social media campaign to get the message out. With 30,000 members, CPF is not the largest California labor group, but to have major Capitol clout, they don’t need to be – doesn’t everyone love firefighters? His firefighters’ org has two unusual and profitable sidelines – it runs a large printing shop, serving the union’s needs and outside clients (disclosure: including Capitol Weekly), as well as a video and audio service with union and corporate clients.
17. Kip Lipper
Kip Lipper, an environmental expert who wields enormous influence in the Capitol, is the energy and environment adviser to Senate Leader Kevin de León. Lipper’s fingerprints are on every major environmental bill originating in the Senate or coming through it – and that includes the biggest environmental bill of the year, the extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program until 2030. He does myriad chores, including brokering agreements and analyzing legislation, from his tiny, messy office at the rear of the Senate executive suite. When the clock is ticking, that tiny office is jammed with people representing a multitude of interests. Whether it’s greenhouse gases, air quality, land-use issues or water cleanliness and conservation – environmental legislation needs Lipper’s stamp of approval. In the Capitol, that process is referred to as getting “Lipperized.” In addition to being a long-time aide to former Sen. Byron Sher, a deal-cutting icon to environmentalists, Lipper was instrumental in crafting the California Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. And – small world – Donna Lucas (No. 31) is his sister.
18. Tom Steyer
A fundamental question in California politics is this: What is Tom Steyer up to? Steyer, often described as the “billionaire environmentalist,” is a retired hedge fund owner and philanthropist, as well as the single largest funder of Democratic causes in the state. The California-based Steyer toyed with running for governor, or U.S. Senate, but didn’t. Now, the word around the water cooler is that he may run in 2018 for governor, entering a Dem field that already includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin and state Treasurer John Chiang. Steyer, not pressured by the need to raise money, has time to make up his mind. While Steyer’s influence is heavy in California – especially in the state Senate – it also expands beyond the state’s borders. His political action committees have been involved in races in Virginia, Massachusetts and elsewhere. Last year, his PACs spent nearly $88 million backing Democratic candidates and climate change legislation.
19. Charles Munger Jr.
Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford University physicist, seems to have it all— the smarts, the cash and even an iconic collection of bow ties. Big money runs in the family — his father is the business partner of billionaire investor Warren Buffet. As for the bow tie collection, let’s just say he looks the part of the Stanford physics professor. Munger is best-known for bankrolling causes near and dear to the heart of the California Republican Party. An interest in redistricting (spurred by his volunteer work on Steve Poizner’s 2004 Assembly campaign) led Munger to contribute over $12 million to Proposition 20, a 2010 ballot measure which established the nonpartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission. Last November, Munger (with former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee) was the driving force behind Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment requiring an increase in transparency for legislative actions, which ultimately passed. One of its provisions includes requiring bills to be in print for 72 hours before they are voted upon – a provision that already has had a significant impact in the Legislature.
20. Dave Low
There are hundreds of thousands of Californians who work in schools and colleges across California who are not teachers. They are “classified” employees, and their chief advocate is Dave Low, since 2011 the executive director of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), the largest union of classified employees in the United States. Low has been with the 230,000-member CSEA for more than 35 years, and has pretty much done it all by way of union work – contract bargaining, arbitration, serving as a union steward, and that’s only a partial list. In addition to his decades of union work and Sacramento advocacy, he has taken a leadership role in fighting efforts to roll back public pensions – an issue that rears its head with increasing frequency.
21. Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves is chief of staff to Senate Leader Kevin de León, which means he works to get his boss’ legislative agenda approved. Reeves also keeps the Senate leader focused, manages various staffs, puts out fires and serves as the crucial linkage between De León and the fellow senators and their staffs. Reeves had big wins this year on the cap-and-trade extension and SB 1, the $52 billion road-repair bill. Reeves also did some heavy lifting getting SB 562, a single-payer health care bill carried by a close De León ally, Ricardo Lara, through the Senate. Its passage came as a surprise to many – as did Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s decision to refuse to take up the bill when it came his way. A takeaway for some in the Capitol is that the Senate seems to be better organized than the Assembly, and Reeves may be one of the reasons why.
22. Dustin Corcoran
Dustin Corcoran has served as the CEO of the 43,000-member California Medical Association for the past seven years, getting the top job after rising through the ranks. If legislation on the table involves health care, Corcoran is there. Last year, Corcoran co-chaired the campaign to pass Proposition 56, successfully raising the tobacco tax by $2 a pack and in turn gaining more money for Medi-Cal. The latter is especially important to the CMA, because doctors who provide care for Medi-Cal patients have long complained about Medi-Cal’s low reimbursement rates. Corcoran earlier served the CMA as coordinator of the political action committee, staff lobbyist, the vice president of governmental relations and senior vice president of the association. His day-to-day job includes overseeing the staff, directions and actions of the CMA.
23. Aaron Read
Aaron Read has been lobbying in Sacramento since Ronald Reagan’s first term as governor. Aaron Read and Associates is at or near the top of anybody’s list of California’s blue-chip lobbyists. The firm has more than four-dozen clients, including PG&E, AT&T, Dun & Bradstreet, California Hospital Association, California Grocers Association, etc., etc. The firm does more than lobby: It has a public affairs company called Marketplace Communications, and occasionally publishes a magazine called California Conversations, which is also the name of their series of video profiles of CA politics bigwigs like Willie Brown. But his firm presents us with a problem, and always has: Who do you put on this list? Is it Aaron, because he’s the main guy? Is it the firm’s lobbyists, who do much of the heavy hitting? If we put Terry McHale, Steve Baker, Randy Perry, Jennifer Tannehill and Pat Moran on the list, along with Aaron, we’d eat up 7 percent of our space. Should we rotate through the names each year? This same issue arises with other firms, too, so we need to figure this out.
24. Yvonne Walker
Last year, SEIU Local 1000 leader Yvonne Walker, who exclusively handles collective bargaining for nearly 100,000 state workers, was a campaign force for Hillary in California and probably hoped that by this time labor would be reaping the benefits of the third straight term of a Democratic president. Instead, she’s fighting to protect her workers from increasingly aggressive ICE tactics, but Walker, a Marine Corps veteran, isn’t one to shy away from a fight. For the past decade she’s gone to the mat for her members as the giant local’s first black female president. She’s one of the most influential voices on California’s Secure Choice Retirement Board. Essentially, if there’s a fight out there, Walker will get involved, and there are plenty of fights out there: In addition to supporting Labor Commission head Julie Su’s memo directing labor offices to keep ICE agents out, Walker has also gotten the SEIU behind proposed legislation to make California a sanctuary state.
25. Mona Pasquil
As the appointments secretary for Gov. Brown, Mona Pasquil oversees background checks on people who Brown may wish to appoint to an office, or who have applied to work for the administration. It’s a crucial, difficult job and one where mistakes can be embarrassing. She also handles recruiting – a critical function in a government where there are hundreds of positions to fill with gubernatorial appointees. Pasquil, who knows the inner workings of the Capitol like the back of her hand, is an integral part of the governor’s top administrative staff. Although her impact on government is far reaching, she draws little public attention and is known only within a small orbit. She’s also got an extensive political pedigree: She was political director for former Gov. Gray Davis, served as the western political director for the Clinton White House Office of Public Affairs, and was California political director of the Gore-Lieberman campaign in 2000. In 2009, she received rare public attention when she was appointed lieutenant governor to fill the vacancy left by John Garamendi, who resigned to go to Congress.
26. Amy Costa
As chief deputy director for budget at the Department of Finance, Amy Costa is second in command at the powerful office that writes the governor’s budgets. But with Director Michael Cohen out sick, Costa is now running the show at the agency that holds the purse strings for California’s vast bureaucracy. The Finance Department gives thumbs up or down on agencies’ spending, and Costa is at the center of the action. Costa started her career in former Senate Leader Don Perata’s office in 2001, and served the Bay Area state senator throughout his term as President Pro Tem until he left office in 2008. Now she represents the governor’s office in budget negotiations, often going to bat for Brown when he needs to hammer out any contentious budget issues with the Legislature.
27. Daniel Alvarez
Daniel Alvarez seems to wear more hats than the Mad Hatter could make in a year’s work. He is Secretary of the Senate and a one-stop shop for nearly everything. He deals with Senate spending, the legislative records, housekeeping tasks, and even has influence over who gets what office — so don’t mess with him or you might end up working in a closet. One could say that almost nothing in the Senate would be able to run as smoothly without Alvarez. Alvarez worked his way to this position, starting out in the Legislative Analyst’s Office, moving over to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and then the Appropriation Committee, where he handled public education.
28. Gale Kaufman
The prominent Sacramento campaign management firm of Kaufman Campaign Consultants is coming off two big 2016 wins. Gale Kaufman’s firm managed the successful effort on behalf of Prop. 55, extending income tax rates for wealthier Californians, and Prop. 64, legalizing recreational use of marijuana. The firm can boast that Proposition 64 received the highest vote share of any of the eight states to legalize pot so far. Kaufman brings decades of experience to the job; she has headed up more than 100 state Senate and Assembly campaigns and has served as a political consultant to the California Teachers Association for twenty years. A partial list of clients includes everyone from the Assembly Democratic Caucus to Southern California Edison, the California Association of Realtors and the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
29. Dana Williamson
We figured that after Dana Williamson left her gig as Gov. Brown’s cabinet secretary, we could drop her from the list and get a new name in the fold. But no such luck. Williamson, now working as private political consultant in Sacramento, is very much Brown’s political adviser and legislative strategist. Everyone we spoke to said Williamson did Brown’s heavy lifting in negotiating the extension of California’s cap-and-trade program – the administration’s highest-priority legislation of the year. Williamson also is tasked with handling Xavier Becerra’s election campaign for attorney general. Becerra, who Brown appointed attorney general to replace Kamala Harris, faces his first statewide election next year. Like Nancy McFadden, (see No. 1), Williamson has PG&E experience. Before becoming cabinet secretary in 2013, she served as a senior adviser to Brown, and she was a deputy communications director and deputy political director for former Gov. Gray Davis.
30. Daniel Zingale
Daniel Zingale is a senior vice president of the California Endowment, the well-funded nonprofit that pushes for improved health care, especially for under-served communities. Zingale was Gov. Gray Davis’s cabinet secretary and a senior adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also chief of staff to Maria Shriver. He started at the California Endowment in 2009, drawing from his experience as the first director of the California Department of Managed Care to help carry out the organization’s many endeavors to improve the health of underserved communities. In his current capacity, he has a central role in determining where the California Endowment allocates its resources and which projects it ends up funding. And, full disclosure: TCE supports Open California, the 501c3 that publishes Capitol Weekly.
31. Donna Lucas
Donna Lucas is the founder and CEO of Lucas Public Affairs, a top-drawer political communications firm that she founded in 2006. She is an adviser to just about anybody trying to figure out Sacramento’s power and politics – including Capitol Weekly; she was a founding member of our board of directors when we launched as a nonprofit in 2012. She also serves on the board of the Public Policy Institute of California and the California Center for Civic Engagement, which holds the California Roast each year. Lucas, a peerless networker, has a Republican pedigree (she got her start working as a press aide in the administration of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian), but she has counseled Democrats, too, which in hyperpartisan Sacramento is praise, indeed. She is married to state Librarian Greg Lucas, who’s not on our list – why foment marital discord? – but he did make the cover of our Top 100 Book this year.
32. Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano is president of the University of California, a sprawling, prestigious education system that includes more than 250,000 students, 21,000 faculty members, 144,000 staff members and 10 campuses. UC gets about $3 billion annually from the state, roughly 43 percent of its total budget, and Napolitano rides herd over it all, usually relatively smoothly. But this year, she ran into a two-pronged whammy. First, she drew fire for UC’s penchant to recruit out of state students in place of California students – out of state students pay more – and many people were not pleased, including lawmakers. Then State Auditor Elaine Howle (see No. 7) came out with a blistering report about UC’s flawed money-handling. Despite the turmoil, Napolitano appears solid in the saddle. The UC Regents stand behind her – at least for now. Napolitano, who’s had an unusual career, is no stranger to balky bureaucracies. She headed the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama Administration (Forbes Magazine, which loves lists even more than Capitol Weekly, dubbed her the 9th most powerful woman worldwide in 2012), and before that she was governor of Arizona.
33. Lori Ajax
In February 2016, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Lori Ajax as the first chief of the newly formed Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, now the Bureau of Cannabis Control. In newspaper jargon, that translates to “Weed Czar.” Ajax is responsible for overseeing the creation of the state’s regulatory framework for the cannabis industry, and everyone is awaiting the new regulations in January. She is also an active member of State Treasurer John Chiang’s Cannabis Banking Work Group. Prior to her appointment, Chief Ajax served as chief deputy director at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control where she spent 22 years working her way up the ranks, starting at the investigator trainee level. Ajax spent ten years in private industry prior to her state government career. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Sacramento.
34. Rex Frazier
You’ll rarely see Rex Frazier, the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, quoted in news stories, but he is widely known around the Capitol and is a major political player who moves a lot of money around campaigns. A former deputy Insurance commissioner, Frazier’s trade association boasts industry heavy-hitters, including State Farm, Allstate, Mercury and Nationwide. Frazier’s job is to make sure that PIFC protects its members at the Capitol and at the ballot box. That means battling consumer groups taking whacks at his companies, and directing political money to candidates who are helpful – or at least not hostile – to the insurance industry. With Democratic majorities in both houses, Frazier takes careful aim at the moderates – a target-rich environment. Frazier, a professor at his alma mater, McGeorge School of Law, also teaches a legislative clinic that has been recognized as one of the most innovative in the country.
35. Art Pulaski
The California Labor Federation mobilizes 20,000 union volunteers in each election cycle, and claims that their 2.1 million members turn out to vote at a rate 10% higher than non-union voters. Even in a state with 39 million people, that’s political clout. As the Federation’s executive secretary and treasurer, Art Pulaski wants to make sure decision-makers in Sacramento and across the state are well aware of labor’s power. His organization can turn out foot soldiers by the thousands because it represents members in 1,200 unions across the manufacturing, transportation, construction, service and public sectors. Pulaski and his troops have fought for hikes in the minimum wage, paid family leave and the Affordable Care Act. He has been involved in unions since he was 16, when he joined the meat-cutters union as a supermarket clerk. He works closely with Angie Wei (see No. 9).
36. Chris Woods
California’s current budget totals $183 billion, and few, if any people in Sacramento know its ins and outs as well as Chris Woods. He’s the budget director to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. That means he is in charge of ensuring that the Assembly’s version of the spending program reflects the priorities of the speaker and members. Along with advising the speaker, Woods also acts as a source of authoritative budget information for Assembly members, and smooths the way as problems inevitably arise in the giant budget of the world’s sixth-largest economy. He is one of a number of highly placed experts in the Capitol who are well known to Capitol denizens concerned about spending priorities, but who are almost totally unknown to the general public, even though they have a great deal of influence on the lives of Californians.
37. Courtni Pugh
Courtni Pugh is a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions where she is senior political adviser to Senate Leader Kevin de León and leads a multitude of efforts for political and non-profit causes. Pugh, who is responsible first and foremost for protecting the state Senate’s Democratic majority, has been at the center of numerous political campaigns. Prior to joining Hilltop, Pugh served as executive director of SEIU Local 99, which represents 33,000 of the lowest-paid employees in the nation’s second-largest school district. In 2014, she helped lead negotiations for an increase in the minimum wage for Los Angeles Unified School District employees. Hailed as a significant victory in the nationwide “Fight for $15,” the wage increase capped Pugh’s career as the head of the local. In 2010, Pugh also helped run an independent expenditure campaign in support of Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign and oversaw outreach to Hispanic voters through Cambiando California.
38. Craig Cornett
Craig Cornett is the Senate’s budget director and chief fiscal adviser to Senate Leader Kevin de León. He is the counterpart to Chris Woods (see No. 36), and together they follow the money. Cornett’s main job is to analyze a spending plan’s strengths and weaknesses and make sure that the senate leader’s proposals are fiscally sound. When the Senate deals with pocketbook issues – and that’s always – Cornett is the guy who irons it out. He tracks the details, advises on the politics and instructs the members. And he’s sick of being asked every year when the state budget will be passed. Before replacing former budget director Diane Cummins in 2008, Cornett spent 17 years at the Legislative Analysts Office and another eight in the Assembly.
39. Alma Hernandez
Alma Hernandez, executive director of California’s biggest union, the 700,000-member SEIU, makes sure that SEIU’s positions get political support. She stepped into the SEIU’s top staff spot in July of 2016, moving up from political director to take over for departing director Jon Youngdahl. The move made Hernandez the first Latina to head a statewide union of this size. The union represents janitors, home care workers, social workers, professors, school workers, health care workers, and city, county, and state workers. Under Hernandez’s direction, there is little doubt about where the SEIU stands on issues – particularly issues related to President Donald Trump, and what she calls “Trump’s racist immigration bill.”
40. Joe Lang
There are heavyweight lobbying firms in Sacramento, and then there’s Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller. Joe Lang’s firm regularly bills $1 million a quarter. The firm’s client list is a cross section of California business and industry, with horse racing thrown in. On the list is the California Business Roundtable, the California Retailers Association, California Catholic Conference and Los Alamitos Race Track. Lang set up shop as Joseph L. Lang & Associates after years as a top staffer in the Assembly, where he was the principal consultant to the Governmental Organization Committee, a group with an obscure name but wide power over gaming, alcohol and tobacco legislation. Lang helped oversee floor action, and among other things developed the congressional liaison between the State Assembly and California’s Congressional delegation. Lang later merged his outfit with O’Malley & Associates to form the current iteration of the firm. His lobbying partner, Bev Hansen, a former Republican Assembly member, is no stranger to this list, and partners John O’Malley Jr. and George Miller IV are no slouches, either.
41. Peter Lee
A lawyer by training, and a native Californian, Peter Lee came to direct the state’s health insurance exchange by way of Washington, D.C., after serving in the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services. As the executive director of Covered California, the state exchange spawned by the federal Affordable Care Act, Lee manages a critical, fluctuating marketplace. Efforts to repeal the ACA in Washington have brought uncertainty to the future of Covered California; much depends on Congress. Though the repeal push seems dead for the moment, any attempt to resuscitate it could make Lee’s work even more challenging. If the goings-on in D.C. aren’t challenging enough, Lee also has the whims of the insurance market to deal with. His work overseeing the rollout of the gargantuan healthcare exchange is far from over. Last year, premiums rose 13 percent, and next year they are expected to increase again by 12.5 percent.
42. Catherine Reheis-Boyd
Catherine Reheis-Boyd has been President of the Western States Petroleum Association since 2010 but has been affiliated with the oil industry trade association most of her professional life. A shrewd and well-organized administrator, Reheis-Boyd has navigated the complex and often contentious policy discussions among oil companies with vastly different views on environmental issue management, especially climate change. Under her leadership, WSPA remains one of California’s most effective lobbying entities, frequently at or near the top of lobbying expenditure lists. Her role at WSPA extends well beyond California. The Association represents the oil industry in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona as well. Reheis-Boyd has provided a strong and consistent voice for the industry in states without oil-friendly political leadership. She received her bachelor’s of science degree in Natural Resource Management from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and pursued post-graduate studies in environmental engineering at the University of Southern California.
43. Carrie Cornwell
Carrie Cornwell is Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s chief of staff, a position she has held since Rendon became speaker in March 2016, maintaining the position she had with Rendon when he was a rank-and-file lawmaker. Cornwell has deep policy chops in both houses of the Legislature: She served nine years as chief consultant to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, and was chief consultant to both the transportation and housing committees in the Assembly. Cornwell, who started out in the Capitol as an Assembly Fellow, was well-prepared for her current position: She was state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s staff chief when he served in both the Assembly and Senate. Outside the Capitol, Cornwell, who has degrees from UCLA and Princeton, has been an adjunct professor of economics at Sacramento City College and at Sierra College. She also chaired the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission.
44. Jodi Remke
As chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces campaign ethics laws, Jodi Remke is in charge of making sure everyone plays fair amid the roar and clash of the state’s often-supercharged political campaigns. Remke is judged by most observers as a fair umpire, but some of her decisions have generated controversy; in July 2017, the panel supported lifting donation limits to officials targeted by recalls — just as Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman is facing one. Remke, a Democrat from Oakland, served as presiding judge of the State Bar Court, hearing appeals of disciplinary cases involving attorneys. Gov. Brown appointed her to the FPPC in April of 2014, and reappointed her to a full four-year term the following January. Earlier, Remke was a VISTA attorney in Montana, representing clients in domestic violence cases and advocating on behalf of children with disabilities in a rural, underserved area.
45. Dorothy Rothrock
When you think business regulation experts, think ‘Dot.’ Dorothy ‘Dot’ Rothrock is one name that always comes up when you are talking about California business and rightfully so – she is president of California Manufacturers and Technology Association. Rothrock works tirelessly to protect businesses from what she says are unnecessary regulations, tax increases and costly workplace changes. She wages an effective fight, day in and day out. Rothrock succeeded CMTA’s former leader Jack Stewart in 2014 to become the company’s first female president. She’s a good fit to lead after spending many years as CMTA’s go-to person on politics, regulation and lobbying and has garnered a well-regarded presence in the Capitol. CMTA represents some 30,000 manufacturing, processing and technology based companies.
46. RoseAnn DeMoro
Once called “The Most Influential Woman You’ve Never Heard Of” by More magazine, RoseAnn DeMoro has now been heard of – and from. DeMoro generated headlines across the country for her clashes with Democrats as she spearheads an as-yet unsuccessful effort to establish single-payer health care in California. As executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, DeMoro heads a confederation of nurses with considerable state and national influence. DeMoro also serves as national vice president and executive board member of the AFL-CIO. But despite her union clout – and the $528,228 CNA spent to influence officials during the second quarter of this year – DeMoro’s hoped-for single-payer legislation stalled in the Assembly when Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved the bill, calling it “woefully incomplete.” DeMoro promptly tweeted a version of the California bear flag, with a knife marked “Rendon” sticking out of the bear’s back. It’s a safe bet that we’ll be hearing more from DeMoro, not less.
47. Jim Brulte
Jim Brulte is an ebullient, savvy and experienced politician with a problem. As chairman of the California Republican Party, he is familiar with the statistics: February registration figures from the Secretary of State show the Democrats had about 8.7 million registered voters – 44.8 percent of those registered — and Brulte’s Republicans lag badly with a scootch over 5 million. Rounding upward, that’s 26 percent. The state GOP is barely ahead of “No Party Preference,” which stands at 24.5 percent. And then there’s the California Republicans’ problem of What Do We Do About Trump? Undeterred, Brulte is right now laying plans to defend seven Republican-held House seats in Democratic crosshairs. And he’s getting Republicans elected to local offices with hopes of moving them up in the coming years. If anyone can engineer a Republican renaissance, it will be Brulte – a former GOP leader in both the Assembly and Senate, and in our humble opinion, one of the smartest folks in the GOP.
48. Anthony Wright
As the veteran executive director of Health Access California, a coalition that advocates for the expansion of quality health care, Anthony Wright is something of a health care watchdog. He is involved in the development — whether for or against — of virtually every major piece of health care legislation that emerges from the Capitol. He strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and Covered California, the state’s competitive health insurance exchange, and he pushed hard for continuing the funding to maintain an expanded Medi-Cal program. One of his most recent accomplishments is last year’s passage of AB 72, ensuring that no patients get “surprise bills” from out-of-network providers. Health Access was formed 30 years ago, and Wright has been executive director for half that time – he’s held the position since 2002.
49. Michael Quigley
Water and transportation infrastructure, and the people who build it, are what preoccupy Michael Quigley, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs. The Alliance always is at the center of negotiations over bond money to finance big projects, like reservoirs and highways. The Alliance is a coalition of infrastructure-building organizations, including the Associated General Contractors of California, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 3 and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, among others. Quigley, a new arrival on the Top 100, replaces the retired Jim Earp, (who left the Alliance but still has a seat on the Transportation Commission). Quigley worked his way through college on construction jobs, giving him what the Alliance says is “a unique perspective on the front lines of the industry.” This year, Quigley and the Alliance were deeply involved in negotiations to pass SB 1, the hard-fought measure ultimately passed and signed by Gov. Brown, that will generate $52 billion for infrastructure projects through increased taxes on fuel.
50. Jason Kinney
We’ve moved Jason Kinney up on the list quite a bit this year – it’s a seat-of-the-pants move, but as Democrats have consolidated power in Sacramento, Kinney has evolved as a go-to spokesman/adviser on a seemingly endless range of political issues, including the latest hot topic, legal marijuana. Truly, all roads (or in our case, all phone calls) lead to Kinney’s office at 980 9th Street. Kinney rose to prominence as an adviser and speechwriter for the former Gov. Gray Davis, (where he wrote or edited 1,200 Davis speeches – let THAT sink in), a role that benefited from his connections and political instincts. Kinney works out of Bob White’s California Strategies, which lists him on their site as “one of California’s premier problem-solvers.” His proximity to prominent Democrats, including presumed 2018 gubernatorial front-runner Gavin Newsom, is an endorsement of that assessment. Kinney and his wife, Mary Gonsalves Kinney, were named one of Sacto’s Power Couples by Sacramento Magazine last year; they live Sacramento with daughters Stella and Violet, and son Dashiell.
51. Steve Maviglio
Political strategist and consultant Steve Maviglio is a familiar name on the Top 100, and rightly so. He focuses on legislative projects and ballot campaigns – 25 of them in the past 15 years — for clients including AT&T, Tesla and Californians for Retirement Security. His work includes Propositions 53, 54, 65, and 67 in the 2016 election alone, and the Yes on 1 and No on 45 efforts in 2014. Last year, he led successful efforts to keep proposals off the ballot that would shift funds from the High Speed Rail project to dams, and to split California into six states. He served as deputy chief of staff to two Assembly speakers, Fabian Núñez and Karen Bass, and was communications consultant for a third, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. Before joining the Legislature, Maviglio was press secretary and communications director for Gov. Gray Davis. Maviglio, who also served as executive director for the House Democratic Caucus under the late Rep. Vic Fazio, started out in New Hampshire, where he was a three-term member of that state’s House.
52. Rusty Hicks
He’s frequently referred to as a rising star in the labor movement, but Rusty Hicks, as executive director of the 300-union, 800,000-member-strong Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, is already high up in the hierarchy. Hicks was just 34 when he took over the top slot in 2014, the hand-picked successor of Maria Elena Durazo, who left to take a national union job. He was raised by a single mother in Fort Worth, Texas; his mother was a bookkeeper, his grandfather a grocery clerk and his grandmother a teacher’s aide. Hicks knows the Capitol, having served on the staffs of Assemblymen Ted Lieu and the late Mike Gordon. Quoted in the L.A. Times, SoCal political consultant Parke Skelton said of Hicks, “He is not the kind of rabble-rousing, inspirational figure that Maria Elena is, but he is a really good tactician who knows how money can be spent effectively in political campaigns. And he’s really good at building coalitions among Fed members to keep them together in a common effort.” All good reasons he’s seen as a guy to watch.
53. Michael Rubio
Michael Rubio seemed to be on a meteoric rise in the Legislature, when, on February 22, 2013, he abruptly left his Senate seat to become government affairs director at Chevron. Four years later, the surprise move is still a topic of discussion. The talented, youthful Rubio (he turned 40 on Aug. 24) is right at the center of the petroleum industry’s efforts to influence California’s cap-and-trade program, fuel price increases and assorted other issues affecting the industry. As Chevron’s lead lobbyist, Rubio was involved in the brutal battle to pass of one of the year’s biggest bills, AB 398, which extended cap-and-trade until 2030. Rubio started his career at the U.S. Department of Justice, later returning to his hometown in Kern County. Rubio worked in the office of State Senator Dean Florez for four years, learning the legislative ropes, then went on to become a Kern County supervisor before being elected to the Senate in 2010.
54. Michael Picker
Michael Picker has been at the heart of several Sacramento government operations and deals for many years now, and has a resume the length of a dictionary. Picker serves as the president of the Public Utilities Commission, which has a vast portfolio regulating privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit and passenger transportation companies. Before being appointed PUC president by Brown, Picker had served as a rank-and-file commissioner. Before his PUC gig, Picker served under Brown as a deputy assistant to the Governor for Toxic Substances Control, a deputy treasurer and a senior adviser to the governor on renewable energy. He has also worked as a consultant at Kaufman Campaigns, and was chief of staff to Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, Jr.
55. Darius Anderson
Darius Anderson may not have as high a profile he did when he was Gov. Gray Davis’ chief fundraiser (ginning up $127 million for the guv’s warchest) but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. His lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, has offices in Sacramento, Orange County and San Francisco, and averaged about $1.2 million for each of the last four quarters. The firm has more than five dozen clients, including Tesla Motors, the city of San Diego, the Hearst Corp., Habitat for Humanity, UPS and Ventura County. He is a leader of the Treasure Island Development Project, a $6 billion economic redevelopment of the former Naval Station and world’s fair site in the San Francisco Bay. And, he’s also a newspaper publisher, one of the partners publishing the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. A San Francisco native, Anderson got his start in politics interning for then-Congressman Doug Bosco.
56. Amy Brown
Amy Brown may have insisted that her career was “over” following her bawdy performance at the California Roast of Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes this year, but so far as we can tell, the star DiMare, Brown, Hicks and Kessler lobbyist hasn’t missed a beat yet. If Brown knows how to cut loose, she also commands respect as a go-to expert on pensions and retirement issues. Prior to her work with DBHK, she was a legislative representative for the League of California Cities, advocating on behalf of all 478 cities in the state. She travels the state constantly, conducting seminars on retirement issues and educating retirees – and others – about their options. So while she’s Sacramento-based, Brown also has something of a statewide profile – an unusual characteristic for a capitol lobbyist. She’s also handled workers compensation insurance issues – she served on the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers Compensation – and she helped draft major changes to the industry that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law.
57. Chris Tapio
A 20-year veteran of capitol politics, strategist Chris Tapio is best known as a consultant and adviser to the moderate Democrats in the Legislature, a role that has brought him increased visibility – and juice – as the Mod Dem caucus has grown. Since the advent of Top Two elections, the successes of moderate Democrats have multiplied, significantly altering the composition of the Democratic-controlled Legislature – especially in the Assembly. This fertile ground has kept Tapio busy working to connect newly-elected legislators with like-minded supporters in the business community, and he has built relationships with a roster of assembly members and senators dating back to their first Sacramento visits as candidates. Tapio got his start as an Assembly Fellow, eventually landing a gig as an Assembly staffer. He was recruited by veteran Sacramento political consultant David Townsend to run the California Issues Forum, a 501(c)4 that serves as a de facto arm of the Mod Dem caucus. In 2014 he formed a new public affairs and political consulting firm with Townsend and Kelly Calkin.
58. Mike Belote
Mike Belote, no stranger to the Top 100 list, is the president of California Advocates, Inc., one of California’s first contract lobbying firms. The firm represents blue-chip companies like Apple, Delta Airlines, Equifax, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, NRG and more, and dozens of associations in diverse areas such as real estate, healthcare, law, agriculture, and others. They also have a sizable presence in water – always a critical factor in California. A second division of the firm constitutes one of Sacramento’s largest association management operations. His philanthropic activities have supported Volunteers of America, the Public Legal Services Society at McGeorge law school, and My Sister’s House, an organization focused on domestic violence and trafficking in the Asian Pacific Islander community. The latter bestowed Mike with its 2017 “Civic Hero of Hope” award, presented to him by California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Full disclosure: Belote serves on the board of Open California, publisher of Capitol Weekly.
59. Barry Brokaw
Few remain in Sacramento who can boast of having served on the staff of the late Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, but Barry Brokaw can. Now one of the top lobbyists in the capitol, Brokaw had a nearly 20-year history as a legislative staffer, including 18 years with state Sen. Daniel Boatwright of Concord – an Arkansas-born lawmaker sometimes described as “colorful” — before joining Sacramento Advocates in 1993. Their client list is long and varied, and includes the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, Western Union, the Association of Talent Agents and the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, among others. Many others. The Brokaw family tradition in politics continues – Barry’s son Brian managed Kamala Harris’s successful campaign for attorney general and youngest son Nick is a member of the firm. Full disclosure: Nick once worked as an intern/reporter for Capitol Weekly and Barry serves on our board of directors.
60. Keely Bosler
Keely Bosler is Gov. Brown’s cabinet secretary, which means she effectively runs California’s far-flung bureaucracy from the inner sanctum of the governor’s administrative suite. It’s a key position in state government, and different people handle it differently. Bosler’s predecessor, Dana Williamson (see No. 29), melded politics and policy. Bosler is a money person, one of the savviest in the Capitol, we’re told. She served as chief deputy director of the Department of Finance — the powerful agency that writes the governor’s budgets and decides how much the agencies can spend — for three years before Brown appointed her cabinet secretary. Before that, Bosler spent a decade as staff director and consultant at the Senate Budget Committee. She’s worked in the budget management branch of the state prison system, and spent nearly five years at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser.
61. Kevin Sloat
Mention top lobbyists in Sacramento, and Kevin Sloat’s name inevitably comes up. He’s a principal in Sloat, Higgins, Jensen and Associates, whose list of 42 clients includes such companies as the California Business Roundtable, Anheuser-Busch, the California Trucking Association, Foster Farms, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (see No. 15), among others. Sloat, with three decades in Sacramento, has deep roots in the Capitol community. Three years ago, he got hit with a $133,500 fine from the FPPC for violating lobbying laws. But that was then, and now is now, and as we said last year, Sloat remains “an acknowledged and respected Sacramento power player.”
62. Carrie Gordon
Dentists do a lot more than fix your teeth. In Sacramento, they wield significant political clout, and one of the reasons is Carrie Gordon, the California Dental Association’s chief strategy officer. She’s come up through the ranks at the CDA; she earlier served as vice president of governmental affairs and legislative advocate, among other positions. In her 15 years at the CDA, Gordon has worked specifically with the board and legislators to chart a course on complex insurance and scope-of-practice issues as well as expanding and funding Denti-Cal, a dental program for low-income Californians. Most recently, Gordon successfully helped to pass Proposition 56, the ballot measure that raised taxes on cigarettes, about $1.7 billion annually, with some of that headed to dentists who are reimbursed for providing Denti-Cal services.
63. George Skelton
Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton has been helping readers understand politics and the sausage-making of state law since 1974. Before that, he was a top California staffer for United Press International. (He and the late Bill Stall of The Associated Press were fierce competitors, but became close friends in later years when Stall worked at the Times, too.) The tart-tongued Skelton is not a devotee of the “but-on-the-other-hand” school of column writing. For example, after an analysis bristling with facts and figures, the grouchy Skelton recently urged backers of single-payer health care in California to “take a cold shower and return to the real world.” Angered that California’s recycling program faced problems, Skelton spanked Jerry Brown: “Jerry Brown traipses all over the world trying to save the planet from global warming. But he needs to salvage one basic environmental program here at home.” Anyone who wants to keep on top of California politics is well advised to read Skelton, not only because of his knowledge but because he’s always a fun read and never doctrinaire.
64. Bill Wong
Single-payer health care has blossomed as a major issue in California (Skelton’s columns notwithstanding), spurred at least in part by Washington’s failure so far to repeal, replace, or even patch up the Affordable Care Act. And right in the middle of the Sacramento single-payer action is veteran Democratic strategist Bill Wong, a widely known expert in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. He is the political director of the Asian American Small Business PAC and an aide to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Wong, no stranger to political battles, found himself in a fierce fight this year when Rendon decided to shelve Senate-passed legislation (SB 562) aimed at establishing a single-payer system in California. Rendon’s action set off a recall drive, which Wong helped to blunt. Wong called the recall petitions full of “misleading and false allegations” from people who don’t even live in Rendon’s southeast Los Angeles district.
65. David Quintana
Whenever there’s a big-ticket dispute in the Capitol, lobbyist David Quintana is somewhere near the middle of it. This year, it’s the emerging marijuana industry: Companies are grappling for leverage as the state crafts regulations to take effect in January, and the locals decide whether they are in or out. Quintana has signed the California Cannabis Couriers Association, for starters, and has others in the pipeline. Earlier, when the ride-sharing company Uber came to Sacramento to parley over legislation, they hired Quintana’s firm, Gonzalez, Quintana and Hunter, to give the company a hand. He did – and he was one reason Uber wound up a winner. Of course, a lot’s happened to Uber since then. Before that, Quintana was active in online gaming negotiations, in part because he built the California Tribal Business Alliance into a political force. A lot of people with a lot of dough like Quintana and his firm – they have more than six dozen clients.
66. Dan Morain
Dan Morain, a columnist at the Sacramento Bee for the past seven years and that paper’s editorial page editor, is more than a good political writer. He’s a good writer, period, with an ability to get behind politics and policy and describe the human dimension. Consider his Aug. 5 column, a legitimate tear-jerker about lobbyist Joe Lang’s efforts to find answers about his daughter’s mysterious illness, or his June piece on a lawmaker facing a recall: “This is what happens when a ‘great guy’ goes into politics.” Morain, who worked for the L.A. Times for 27 years, most of it in Sacramento, came to the Bee following a brief stint with the Consumer Attorneys of California. He tracks the ins and outs of state politics with a deft, authoritative touch, and he follows political money with great skill – as the lobbyists know very well. “If you’re a lobbyist, the last thing you want is a call from Dan Morain,” one told us as we were putting together this list.
67. Jodi Hicks
If there is a go-to lobbyist in Sacramento for health care issues, it’s Jodi Hicks. This year, given the turbulence in Congress about rewriting the ACA, the issues surrounding Pharmacy Benefit Managers, Medi-Cal, drug pricing and rate hikes, are at the top of Hicks’ crowded agenda. Before becoming a partner in DiMare, Brown, Hicks and Kessler, she was a staff lobbyist for the California Medical Association. DBHK’s client list now includes the California Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association and the Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. In addition, the firm has a long list of non-medical clients, including Safeway, Best Buy and the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers, an organization promoting greater road safety through technology. Hicks often sees politics up close: Her hubby is Paul Mitchell (see No. 87), political analyst extraordinaire and vice president of Political Data, which markets political campaign information. Oh, and we should mention that she’s on the board at Open California, publisher of Capitol Weekly.
68. Fiona Hutton
If there’s a complex, controversial or high-profile issue in California, Fiona Hutton’s Los Angeles-based communications agency is all but certain to be on it. We first came across her influence in the world of water issues – definitely a hot topic, now — but there’s much, much more going on here: She’s involved in energy, land-use, health care, natural resources, legislative battles, regulatory challenges, ballot measures, litigation tete-a-tetes – you name it. Clearly, as we’ve noted before, it’s better to have her for you, than against you. Her firm also developed extensive digital media services and coalition-building tactics that have proven decisive for her clients, and Hutton’s reach spans the length the state. Full disclosure: Hutton is a member of the board of Open California, the nonprofit publisher of Capitol Weekly.
69. Ed Manning
KP Public Affairs has long been a top-billing lobbying firm, and lawyer-lobbyist Ed Manning, a partner at KP, is one of the reasons why. He handles an array of water and energy companies and utilities, and pushes business interests in such areas as development and environmental regulation, including exemptions in the California Environmental Quality Act. He regularly lobbies state government agencies such as the Cal-EPA, the Air Resources Board, the state water board and others, and this year he played a role in extending California’s cap-and-trade program through 2030. Manning also played a key role for LADWP on several legislative efforts involving energy storage mandates related to Aliso Canyon gas storage closure and new renewable energy goals in SB 100.
70. Mark Macarro
Mark Macarro is the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and is one of the most influential tribal voices in California. He is viewed as a leader within the tribal community, and many see him as a successor to the late Richard Milanovich, the late chair of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died in 2012. Pechanga is a casino-owning tribe – they have a huge hotel casino in Temecula – with the resources to exert political clout in Sacramento, and as a funding source for campaigns and candidates. Over the past few years, the disputes over online poker have been at or near the top of tribal concerns, although that issue’s importance has dwindled – at least for now. But in its place is a new gaming issue drawing the tribes’ attention: online sports betting. Legislation is being prepared to legalize sports betting in California and many of the casino-owning tribes are all but certain to be involved in negotiating the legislation.
71. Scott Wetch
We always think of Scott Wetch of Carter Wetch Associates as a labor guy, now and forever, but he has corporate interests, too — Verizon, Lyft and the Los Angeles Turf Club, among others. He’s an aggressive – very aggressive — advocate for labor, including the State Pipe Trades Council, and he served as political and legislative director for the powerful Building and Construction Trades Council, which has its headquarters in the same building as Carter Wetch at 13th and I. When Rep. Mike Thompson was in the Legislature, Wetch served as his legislative director, and he also served as chief of staff to former Lawmaker Jack Scott, a Pasadena Democrat.
72. Henry Perea
Henry Perea made statewide news in December of 2015 when he abruptly resigned his Assembly seat to take a lobbying job with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. He left that position on May 1 of this year to become senior vice president of policy and strategic affairs for the Western States Petroleum Association. Within the space of two years, Perea thus changed from being a business-friendly Democratic lawmaker from Fresno to being a heavyweight lobbyist. If you’re interested in how heavy a Sacramento heavyweight is, WSPA spent $18.7 million on lobbying California officials during the 2015-2016 legislative session. Perea can be described as a young man in a hurry – only 40, he became a member of the Fresno City Council at age 25, and was elected council president in 2007.
73. Annie Notthoff
With 35 years under her belt at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Annie Notthoff is a seasoned environmental warrior. Notthoff directs the NRDC’s advocacy efforts out of Sacramento and San Francisco. Notthoff and the NRDC have close ties to the Brown administration, and it shows: They played a role in the successful push to extend California’s cap-and-trade program until 2030. Notthoff has been a major supporter of AB 32, the state’s landmark law to curb greenhouse gases, and she defended the law when opponents tried to repeal it through a 2010 ballot measure, Proposition 23. With California taking a lead role in the pushback against controversial Trump administration environmental decisions like the Paris Agreement pullout, Notthoff’s workload is all but certain to increase.
74. Jonathan Ross
Jon Ross, a partner at KP Public Affairs, is an expert in financial services law, which means he handles such clients as Citigroup, the Mortgage Bankers Association and General Electric, among others. He’s also KP’s lead lobbyist for the Hertz Corp. and Google, and subsequently was retained by other technology leaders, including Cisco, Airbnb and Lyft. (He works closely with Ed Manning. See No. 69). The result is that he has become a key voice on virtually all issues impacting Silicon Valley. He’s also KP’s principal adviser to the California Grocers Association. That’s a lot of heavyweight financial power with a lot at stake in the capitol, along with small-business issues such as worker’s compensation reform, eased wage and hour regulations, limiting frivolous lawsuits, and the like. Ross does it all. He started his lobbying career with the San Francisco law firm of Landels, Ripley and Diamond, where he specialized in real estate and financial services law.
75. Rob Lapsley
Rob Lapsley, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Bill Jones, is the president of the California Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan, pro-business group that’s not the Chamber of Commerce. 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. Lapsley took the helm in 2011, and during his tenure, CBRT has boosted its profile, launching the nonpartisan California Center for Jobs and the Economy, and, in collaboration with the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the California Latino Economic Institute.
76. Paula Treat
Paula Treat became a lobbyist in 1977, and later she was one of the first women to own a contract lobbying firm, which she’s run for more than three decades. She’s had more than 100 A-List clients over the years, and her current client roster includes the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians and Tesla. Treat, who once won the Barracuda Award from lawmakers as the “Toughest Lobbyist to Say No To” (an award we can personally say is well-deserved), started out in D.C. after graduating from UC Berkeley in communications and PR. Her clients have included prison officers (CCPOA), doctors (CMA), cigar sellers (Premium Cigar Retailers), the Consul General of Japan In San Francisco, Marriott Corp., AT&T, San Francisco tugboats, Johnson & Johnson, Uber, eye doctors and surgeons, among many, many others. Treat has built broad coalitions and, remarkably, is a bi-partisan lobbyist: She has been active in Democratic and Republican politics since the 1970s, serving at the DNC and RNC convention levels, including the 2008 Obama Platform Committee.
77. V. John White
John White is the executive director of the California Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, which since 1990 has been pushing for ways to battle climate change while providing clean energy. Under White’s leadership, CEERT has sought to weave together utilities, private companies and non-governmental organizations into expanded cooperative arrangements. In 2016, for instance, CEERT encouraged the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the Imperial Irrigation District to increase resource sharing and cooperation between their systems and the statewide grid. Analysis by CEERT experts helped persuade PG&E that relicensing its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant would be less economical for ratepayers than replacing the plant with a portfolio of clean-energy resources. White might be accurately labeled the state’s foremost advocate for making California the greenest state in the union, if it isn’t already there. He is the type of green-energy advocate that gives fossil fuel companies nightmares.
78. Fabian Núñez
Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, now a top strategist for Mercury Public Affairs, is plugged into the Capitol – definitely. He’s a lifelong friend of Senate Leader Kevin de León, and he knows the Assembly operation backwards and forwards. Mercury is a major player in Sacramento; in fact, it seems to be a major player everywhere, with 300 clients worldwide and 17 offices – its biggest client here is the California Endowment – and its staff tracks the Capitol’s political wars closely. There’s a lot to track, but Núñez is a good fit, especially this year, when lawmakers approved and Brown signed the cap-and-trade extension. Núñez was a co-author of AB 32, the bill to fight global warming, and he knows the issues, which became apparent during the negotiations over the legislation.
79. John Myers
When it comes to political reporting, John Myers has it, well, covered. He’s the Sacramento bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times; his byline appears regularly in both the print paper and the website; he does California’s longest-running political podcast (“California Politics Podcast,” which launched in 2006). Before coming to the Times, he was capitol bureau chief for KQED in San Francisco, and he was also a political reporter for Channel 10, the ABC outlet in Sacramento. As if that weren’t enough, Myers moderated the gubernatorial debates in 2010 and 2014. He is a product of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and earlier graduated from Duke University. Myers is also notable for a refreshing attitude. Although he’s a sophisticated and experienced reporter, he seems to greatly enjoy covering politics and its people. This approach has its rewards – Myers is probably the best-known political reporter in the state.
80. Christy Bouma
Year in and year out, the California Professional Firefighters, affiliated with unions representing 30,000 firefighters across the state, is a powerful force in politics. This year was no exception, and top CPF lobbyist Christy Bouma played a major role in the push to extend California’s landmark cap-and-trade program a decade until 2030 – an extension sought by Gov. Brown, who CPF has long supported. The extension was the main – but not only – piece of that complex legislative package, and Bouma’s influence was felt in the negotiations that ultimately enabled the legislation to squeak through with only a single extra vote in each house. Bouma has strong political roots: Her father Brian Hatch is a former CPF lobbyist who was recently named to the Fair Political Practices Commission. A former mathematics and computer science teacher in the Inland Empire, Bouma also lists the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Primary Care Association as clients.
81. Jack Ainsworth
Since the abrupt and contentious firing of former executive director Charles Lester last February, the Coastal Commission has been in transition. While the drama – and the year it took the commission to officially name Ainsworth as Lester’s successor – didn’t make for the most auspicious shift in power, Ainsworth is moving forward in his new role. A Coastal Commission staffer since 1989, he now finds himself in a seat of significant power: he’s head of the state agency responsible for approving any development along the more than 1,000 miles of the state’s most expensive real estate. Since his tenure started in February, Ainsworth has been working to refocus the Commission on its original mission: protecting the coast for all Californians. He’s pushing to develop low-income vacation lodging, complete the Local Coastal Plans, and address rising sea levels and shrinking beaches. With about $2 million of the agency’s budget at the mercy of the new Republican administration and Congress, Ainsworth may need to wield that power for an even bigger fight.
82. Mike Madrid
Mike Madrid, a who’s-who and what’s-what expert on Latino politics, seems to have his fingers in a little bit of everything. Madrid started out as a spokesperson for the California GOP, later becoming an adviser to the League of California Cities and a publisher of newsletters covering local governments. His longtime gig has been as a political consultant — although he registered as a lobbyist for at least part of last year. Madrid is a principal at GrassrootsLab — a public affairs firm involved in campaigns, online organizing, coalition building and research, and he was an organizer of the 501(c)4 nonprofit Leadership California Institute, which seeks to identify early viable candidates for legislative office. If there’s a hot topic in the state, chances are Madrid is involved somehow. In the wake of Prop. 64, Madrid has become a go-to for marijuana industry clients seeking to navigate local governments and ordinances on pot.
83. Carolyn McIntyre
One out of every two California households subscribes to cable television. Carolyn McIntyre, president of the California Cable & Telecommunications Association says that’s just the beginning. McIntyre has a double-barreled job as the association’s manager and lobbyist. She is used to handling challenges – before joining CCTA, she was regional vice president of state governmental affairs for Sempra Energy, a job that involved navigating Sempra through the California Energy Crisis. And earlier than that, McIntyre was an undercover narcotics agent. She is on the board of directors of the CCTA-funded California Channel, and formerly served on the board of Woman Escaping a Violent Environment. She is a product of local schools – Sac State (1984) and Kennedy High School.
84. Nancy Drabble
Nancy Drabble is CEO and chief lobbyist for Consumer Attorneys of California. She was a behind the scenes player in the legendary “Napkin Deal” crafted at Frank Fat’s in 1988, helped defeat the “Terrible 200s” (three 1996 ballot measures designed to curtail lawsuits), and for more than a decade has played in instrumental role in budget fights to protect court funding. She has led CAOC’s persistent and successful efforts to defeat over 100 anti-consumer pieces of tort legislation and advocate pro-consumer bills. In the 2015-2016 session, CAOC had 10 sponsored bills signed into law, including major legislation to bar consideration of immigration status in civil cases and require mandatory checks of the CURES prescription drug database before prescribing opioids. This year all seven of CAOC’s sponsored bills are still alive, including legislation challenging Wells Fargo’s use of forced arbitration for phony accounts, and two of them have already been signed by the governor. Drabble came to CAOC in 1986 after a stint working with Ralph Nader’s consumer rights organization, Nader’s Raiders.
85. John Garcia
As vice president for Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, John Garcia makes sure that Kaiser thrives in the Capitol. He lobbies for a far-flung medical organization made up of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, The Permanente Medical Group and Southern California Permanente Medical Group. He is a 20-year veteran of Kaiser Permanente, but even before that was involved in politics, serving as a field representative for Democratic congressman Pete Stark. Earlier, Garcia was the community educator for the City of Hayward. He has also done pro bono work for organizations ranging from the Foundation for Children Without Homes to the Latino Community Foundation to the Monterey Jazz Festival. He is a graduate of California State University at Hayward, majoring in, what else, political science.
86. Jeff Grubbe
In 2012, Jeff Grubbe was elected chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a tribe of just under 500 members that owns several casinos and resorts on 32,000 acres of land in and around Palm Springs. The tribe and its assets are one of the region’s biggest economic drivers, with huge impacts in the Coachella Valley. In Sacramento, Grubbe is seen as one of the key players in the fight over legalizing online gaming, and, generally, as an increasingly prominent leader in Indian Country. Nationally, Native American leaders have been watching Grubbe’s legal battle with two local water districts over groundwater rights. In March of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the tribe has federally-extended groundwater rights dating back to the creation of the reservation in the 1870s. In July, the agencies (the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency) appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which has not yet said whether it will take the case.
87. Paul Mitchell
If you happened to be at the Capitol in the early, early hours of June 8, 2016, you might have gotten a shock: a fleeting glimpse of a naked political analyst running by like a scalded cat. That was just Paul Mitchell, making good on his repeated claims that he’d streak the Capitol if Dems clinched both Top Two slots in the 2016 Senate race. When not streaking (or cycling, his other athletic passion), Paul is extrapolating hidden election truths from raw numbers. He’s vice president of Political Data, Inc., which markets and analyzes data for campaigns — and the campaigns pay bank for his services. He owns Redistricting Partners, which develops political mapping. He’s also the creator of CA120, a campaign analysis column that appears in Capitol Weekly.
88. Kassy Perry
Kassy Perry is President and CEO of Perry Communications Group and has been at the forefront of major initiatives undertaken by the pharmaceutical, entertainment and energy industries, as well as the housing, public health, environment and transportation communities. Her expertise includes helping clients define and manage issues of social significance, and preparing clients to adeptly manage charged communications where companies face an even greater demand to act ethically and swiftly with transparency. Perry is a former television and radio news reporter, producer and anchor. Following her work in broadcasting, she served as a spokeswoman for Gov. George Deukmejian, as well as a committee consultant and press secretary in the Assembly. She capped her career in the public sector as deputy communications director to Gov. Pete Wilson. Perry also serves on Capitol Weekly’s Board of Directors.
89. Lynn Valbuena
Lynn Valbuena, the chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the head of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, is at the epicenter of tribal policy and politics. Valbuena, the great-great-granddaughter of Yuhaaviatam tribal leader Santos Manuel, leads a major casino-owning tribe and has been highly visible in recent years during the political debate over the legalization and regulation of online gaming in California. But Valbuena – like many tribal leaders — also is involved in an array of other issues as well, including women’s rights, social and environmental justice, sovereignty and income disparity. She is viewed within the tribal world as a peacemaker and a canny negotiator, and she plays a significant role in the regular gatherings of tribal officials from across California. Her reputation extends beyond California – she’s a former trustee of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and she has been inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame by the American Gaming Association.
90. Amy Chance
As the political editor of the Sacramento Bee, Amy Chance influences the capital newspaper’s coverage of campaigns, the Legislature, the Brown administration, the bureaucracy, the lobbying community, and more. The Bee, like many newspapers, had a tough year this year, what with budget and staff cuts and the “reeducation” of the remaining reporters to better use social media to drive online traffic. But their Capitol Bureau still has the largest journalistic presence in Sacramento, and the recent round of layoffs and buyouts appears to have left the bureau unscathed. Indeed, the Bee has added a number of new reporters, and they answer to Bureau Chief Dan Smith, a veteran, aggressive journalist deeply knowledgeable about California politics. They’ve all got their work cut out for them: The L.A. Times maintains a major bureau in Sacramento, and the Bee-Times competition over state political coverage is intense.
91. Jack Kavanagh
If you follow California politics, you likely peruse Rough & Tumble, an online daily aggregation of political stories and comment from newspapers, blogs, TV, magazines – you name it. Jack casts a wide net and it shows: Virtually everyone in the Capitol checks R&T’s daily selection of political coverage, which he posts before dawn, then updates during the day. Jack, a veteran journalist and former TV reporter, doesn’t make policy or run campaigns, but the people who do keep a close eye on R&T as the political aggregation landscape gets ever more crowded. He has a following in D.C., too, and he regularly posts links to Beltway stories that have a California connection. Amazingly, Rough & Tumble, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a one-person operation. So when does Jack sleep?
Ray McNally and Richard Temple, the principals in Sacramento campaign consultants McNally-Temple Associates, sport two of the most ferocious mustaches in Golden State politics (perhaps bested only by Michael Picker, No. 54). They are also ferocious on behalf of a long list of clients. They have produced more than one hundred million pieces of direct mail, hundreds of television commercials and elected hundreds of candidates to offices ranging from locals up to the White House (President George W. Bush was a client). Recently, they have been allied with Charles Munger Jr. (see No. 19), a major bankroller of Republican causes. McNally works on graphic design and presentation. Temple works on polling analysis and survey research. Both are involved in strategic campaign planning. Both worked as legislative staffers; McNally founded the firm in 1980, Temple joined in 1990. McNally previously studied playwriting at UC Davis, and we suspect he still has the theater bug – MTA recently produced a trailer for “Chessman” — a new play about the Caryl Chessman case, written by political consultant Joe Rodota.
93. Jennifer Fearing
Public interest advocate Jennifer Fearing runs her white-hat lobbying shop — aptly named Fearless Advocacy — out of a basement office below Ambrosia, the popular eatery and coffee shop at 11th and K. You probably didn’t even know there was office space down there, but there is, and Fearing and her colleagues are happily ensconced. Fearing uses creativity and good old-fashioned shoe pleather to work the angles. If there is a pipeline to public opinion, she’s probably using it before you see it coming. Just ask the Australian government, who have been out-foxed (so far) as they try to maneuver an end to California’s long-standing ban on trade in kangaroo products. Or Assemblyman Jim Frazier; his effort last year to pin a warning label to California nonprofits met with Fearing’s formidable coalition-building skills. More than 800 organizations – including The Network of Care, the 501(c)3 that Frazier himself co-founded – opposed the bill. Fearing is active on social media, and isn’t shy about calling out #allmalepanels – we can attest to that — and promoting plant-based eating.
94. Jim Wunderman
Jim Wunderman is President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a public policy and advocacy organization formed in 1945. Their mission includes making the Bay Area the “most innovative, globally competitive, and sustainable region in the world.” Wunderman leads the Council’s efforts to advocate for billions of dollars in federal, state and regional funding for major transportation and infrastructure projects, so you can be sure he was working behind the scenes to help get SB 1 over the finish line this year. He has headed the Council since April 2004. Early in his career, he worked for then-San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein, whom he cites as his mentor; he later served as chief of staff to San Francisco Mayor Frank M. Jordan. After his stint with Jordan he was VP of two Bay Area waste management/recycling firms, prompting the San Jose Mercury News to note that he “went from politics to waste management, and then back into politics.”
95. Jeff Randle
Jeff Randle is president and CEO of Randle Communications, a top independent public relations/public affairs firm in Sacramento. He has decades of political, media and communications expertise. He served eight years as deputy chief of staff in Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration, and later was the political director for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recall campaign to succeed Gray Davis. Randle helped raise more than $1 million for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Paul Ryan in recent years, and he also serves as a Sacramento finance chair for McCarthy. His firm has a blue chip client list that includes healthcare (California Hospital Association), finance (Golden 1 Credit Union), real estate (California Association of Realtors), insurance (California Earthquake Authority), water (Golden State Water Company), technology (Meg Whitman-Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and professional sports (Sacramento Republic FC’s Major League Soccer Bid). Randle is Chairman of the board and a driving force behind California Trailblazers, the state’s version of the NRCC’s Young Guns candidate recruitment program.
96. Shari McHugh
Shari and spouse Gavin McHugh started McHugh Koepke and Associates, a firm that comes up in just about any discussion about effective lobbying. McHugh has insurance roots: Her lead clients include the Hartford, the National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors of California, the Pacific Association of Domestic Insurance Companies and the California Credit Union League, for starters. Earlier, she was senior vice president of the Coalition of California Insurance Professionals, and before that she was senior VP at the Professional Insurance Agents. She’s worked on behalf of non-insurance interests as well — the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians, the Port of Long Beach and E.J. Gallo, for example – but the heart of her lobbying operation is insurance linked. The insurance industry is at the heart of a lot that goes on in the Capitol and McHugh is plugged in.
97. Rob Stutzman
If he hadn’t become one of California’s top campaign consultants, Rob Stutzman would probably be a well-known political pundit. In fact, even while he manages Republican-leaning campaigns, Stutzman writes insightfully about California’s unique political landscape, with op-eds in major California newspapers. He is also a frequent panel member and television commentator. He was co-chair for communications of the campaign that removed Gray Davis from office and installed Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stutzman then became Schwarzenegger’s deputy chief of staff for communications, and advised the movie star-turned-governor on myriad issues. Stutzman is a charter member of the “Never Trump” wing of the Republican Party, and called conservative commentator Laura Ingraham “an idiot” for her recent attack on Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. He also was involved in billionaire Meg Whitman’s 2010 run for governor. She lost, but we bet Rob made a lot of dough.
98. Michael Mantell
Michael Mantell is president of the Resources Legacy Fund, which directs funding and administers initiatives for individual donors and environmentally-minded philanthropic foundations, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with significant results. Mantell, a former California state undersecretary for Resources for Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, founded the RLF as a way to pool funds from private and public sector sources to achieve maximum conservation impact. His approach works: Mother Jones cited the RLF as one of the state’s heaviest hitters in California water policy, noting that the fund doled out over $11 million in grants to water-related nonprofits in 2014. We tallied up just under $10 million in grants for 2015, the date of their latest posted tax filing. Additionally, the RLF does research and advocacy, often through the California Water Foundation. Mantell is author and co-author of several books and articles, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and on the Governing Council of The Wilderness Society.
99. Laura Mahoney
Only one reporter got a 48-hour heads-up on the deal to dismantle the nation’s only elected tax board. And Laura Mahoney, current president of the Sacramento Press Club, certainly earned that scoop. The longest-serving member of the capitol press corps that you’ve never heard of, Mahoney has spent 20 years on the Board of Equalization beat for Bloomberg BNA. That focus combined with her coverage of health care, labor, campaign finance, pensions, privacy and other wonky topics to sharpen her inquiries. Respected and feared by BOE insiders, Mahoney’s investigative reporting and a scathing Finance Department audit spurred the Legislature and governor to make sweeping changes to California’s tax agency on July 1. Her 2010 series revealed a correlation between campaign contributions from taxpayers and positive BOE outcomes. And then in 2015 she uncovered behested payments made to pet interests of a BOE member by taxpayers with business before the board. Mahoney’s breakout year earned her this spot among the capitol’s top influencers.
100. Thelton Henderson
When U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson retired this month, he left a mark on California government that can be matched by few, if any, individuals. Henderson was the prime mover in reducing California’s prison population. In a ruling upheld by the U.S Supreme Court, Henderson found in 2011 that California’s overcrowded prisons violated the Constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and prevented the state from providing adequate health care. The judge took the unprecedented step of putting the prison health system under his supervision. When the case was filed a decade earlier, California prisons housed 156,000 inmates, twice the designed capacity. An inmate was dying every six days. Today, that population is 118,000, though not all the reduction came from Henderson’s order. Governors appealed, legislators warned of a crime wave, the prison guards union tried to intimidate him, but he endured and the crime rate fell.