This week, we bring you the final installment of our Capitol Weekly Top 100 list of California political power brokers. We were a bit surprised last week about the lack of complaints about the people on our list. Perhaps people were holding their fire to see this second half of the list.
Again, we are acutely aware of the hyper-subjectivity of lists like these. But we do want to hear from you. Who did we leave out? Who should not be on the list? Who was misplaced, or otherwise misrepresented? Log on to www.capitolweekly.net and send us your comment, and your nominees for next year.
51. Joe Edmiston, executive director, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
There are a handful of master bureaucrats sprinkled throughout California who understand how to operate the levers of political power. Edmiston is one of those behind-the-scenes operators. A master at leveraging both political dollars and political power, Edmiston, who was a mentor to Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, has turned the conservancy into one of the most important land-owning organizations in Southern California.
52. Anne Gust
Jerry Brown has always sought complementary parts. During his first stint as governor, Gray Davis was his terrestrial half. Senior adviser Jacques Barzaghi had often been described as Brown’s “other half.” But that was before Brown met his wife, Anne Gust. She is a force in the attorney general’s office, and if Brown does become governor, she will be a power center in the horseshoe – arguably more hands-on than Maria Shriver is in the current administration.
53. Dan Walters, columnist, Sacramento Bee
No columnist in California is more prolific than Walters or more closely read in the Capitol and the lobbying community. More importantly: No other columnist breaks hard new stories as often as Walters, who often uses his column as a platform for solid reporting. If anyone has ink in his veins, it’s Walters. It’s not uncommon to see him in the back of a committee hearing room or blaring out the first question at a gubernatorial press conference. Walters remains a journalist in the old-school mold – unfortunately a rare breed around the Capitol these days.
54. Darius Anderson, president, Platinum Advisors
In a world that runs on relationships, Anderson is dialed in. He and his firm are major players both in Sacramento and San Francisco. He vacations with Susan Kennedy, owns an aquarium at Fisherman’s Wharf and was the main developer of San Francisco’s Treasure Island. When Gray Davis’ administration unceremoniously ended in 2003, Anderson’s influence was expected to wane. In fact, it has grown – but much more quietly.
55. Jon Fleischman, editor, FlashReport
If there is one Web site that has changed political behavior in the Capitol, it is Jon Fleischman’s FlashReport. A must-read among conservatives, or anyone who wants to know what conservatives are thinking, Fleischman emerged as a force during Schwarzenegger’s first years in office. He kept up the momentum during last year’s budget standoff and remains a node of power among the GOP faithful. Getting on the FlashReport is toward the top of any GOP candidate’s to-do list, a testament to the role the site plays in conservative circles.
56. Joe Caves, lobbyist, Conservation Strategy Group
In the world of environmental politics, Caves and the Nature Conservancy are a true political force. Caves has been the author of multi-billion dollar bond measures, including Proposition 84 – the $5.4 billion environmental bond approved by California voters in 2006. Part policy maker, part politician, part negotiator, Caves is in the center of most of the big money environmental deals in the state.
57. Parke Skelton, SG&A Campaigns
Unlike other campaign consultants, Parke Skelton does not revel in the Sacramento power game. The Los Angeles-based Skelton is still an ideologue in a cynic’s business, taking on mostly progressive candidates and pushing back against business-friendly Democrats. His firm advises Speaker Karen Bass and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagosa, but for years, Skelton has relatively quietly gone about his business of taking on “good Democrats” as clients and winning political races.
58. Stewart Resnick, agribusiness baron
The Los Angeles-based Stewart Resnick often is described as simply a producer of nuts and produce, but he’s much more. He’s given at least $150,000 to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaigns, as well as to the Democratic Party and candidates. With his vast farms in the Central Valley – Paramount Citrus and Paramount Farms – Resnick is a player in California’s water wars. Resnick’s Roll International Corp. also has interests in Suterra LLC, an Oregon pesticide company that makes the compound known commercially as Checkmate.
59. V. John White, green energy activist
Known as “V. John” – a sobriquet we suspect was bestowed on him by Greg Lucas — Virgil John White is a combination of committed environmentalist, fearless political player and deft financier. He’s the heart of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and CleanPower.org, which means he’s the go-to guy in the Capitol for all things related to green energy and many things that aren’t. White is on the boards of other environmental groups the California League of Conservation Voters, for example – and he casts a wide net. In an era people often stay off the record, White has reporters’ highest accolade: He gives great quote.
60. Dustin Corcoran, director of governmental affairs, California Medical Association
After the death of Steve Thompson, Corcoran rebuilt the CMA in his image. He hired a cluster of smart young lobbyists, policy and communications staff, moved the group’s policy shop from San Francisco to Sacramento and has maintained CMA’s role as a major force on health care policy. While he maintains a relatively low public profile, his fingerprints are everywhere. He played a major role in killing the governor’s health care plan in the Legislature last year, and continue to drive and encourage lawmakers to introduce health care reform measures.
61. Harvey Rosenfield, consumer activist
An attorney and protégé of national consumer activist Ralph Nader, Harvey Rosenfield authored the landmark ballot initiative Proposition 103 of 1988, which, among other things, transformed California’s multibillion-dollar insurance industry and the way it is regulated. Rosenfield’s Consumer Watchdog group, with substantial funding from charitable foundations and the trial bar, is aggressive and relentless, excoriated by its enemies and praised by its allies. When insurance executives gather and someone simply mentions “Harvey,” they all know who they’re talking about.
62. Bill Burke, chairman, South Coast Air Quality Management District
The well-connected Burke, he founded the L.A. Marathon and his wife is former L.A. Supervisor Yvonne Burke, is a member of two of the most powerful environmental organizations in the state – the AQMD and the California Coastal Commission. When Burke’s term as AQMD was up, he turned to the Legislature to draft a bill that allowed him to stay. Now that’s some political juice.
63. Brian Kelly, policy director, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg
Though considered an expert on transportation policy, Kelly serves as the Senate leader’s eyes and ears on eve
ry piece of legislation that moves through the house. He has been in the Senate since Bill Lockyer was leader, and is one of a handful of ‘super staffers’ that keep the Capitol functioning in the term-limits era. Unknown to the public, he is one of the Capitol’s most influential players.
64. Dan Weintraub, columnist, Sacramento Bee
Since moving over to the Bee’s Q Street headquarters as an opinion writer, Weintraub is not the Capitol fixture he once was when, as a bureau chief for the Orange County Register and reporter for the Los Angeles Times, he provided some of the most aggressive and significant political coverage in California. But his work still resonates inside the Capitol halls. Weintraub is the thinking man’s political columnist, the pontificators’ resident wonk, who is unsurpassed on fiscal issues. And when they hit their mark, his columns arguably do more to change public policy than those of any other journalist in the state. He also brought blogging to Sacramento in a big way during the 2003 recall election campaign.
65. Jot Condie, president, California Restaurant Association
The CRA remains a major player on issues pertaining to small business. When John Burton passed an employer-mandated health care plan, Condie and CRA led the campaign to repeal the measure at the ballot. CRA also broke early with Gov. Schwarzenegger over the issue of health care reform, laying down an early marker against the governor’s health care plans. On other issues like labor regulations and the minimum wage, there is arguably no group more powerful, or as well funded, as the CRA to push back against organized labor.
66. Rick Simpson, senior consultant, Speaker Karen Bass
Inside the building, nobody knows more about education policy than Rick Simpson. And since education funding is a part of nearly every funding policy decision in the Capitol, Simpson is usually in the middle of all those decisions. He has advised speakers since Willie Brown, remains an integral part of the speaker’s policy team and his ability to advance – or block – education policy is remarkable.
67. Jim Earp, chairman, California Alliance for Jobs
Earp was a leading force in the fight for new infrastructure bonds. As vice-chairman of the California Transportation Commission, Earp continues to have a say in how those bond dollars are spent. And his proximity to Gov. Schwarzenegger makes him an enduring force in the world of infrastructure politics.
68. Tom Hiltachk, managing partner, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk
Hiltachk is more than an attorney, he’s a political animal. Never one to shy away from a partisan or political fight, Hiltachk was the man behind a plan to split California’s electoral votes (which would have significantly eased the Republican path to the presidency). Though the plan never went anywhere, the plan showed Hiltachk’s true colors – a political warrior who is not afraid to use the judicial branch to help achieve Republican goals.
69. Jason Kinney, partner, California Strategies
Kinney was the young turk in Bob White’s super firm of political heavies. What Kinney lacked in years of experience, he more than makes up for in boundless energy and tireless promotion. Kinney was Don Perata’s pit bull during the ongoing federal investigation into Perata’s political dealings. And now, Kinney has inserted himself into the special election conversation on Darrell Steinberg’s behalf. He is also part of the Twittering team of brainy, fratboy types on Team Newsom, and unlike so many other political operatives, actually seems to love what he’s doing.
70. Dan Weitzman, fundraiser
People have called Dan Weitzman a lot of things. Shy is not one of them. As the chief fundraiser to both Karen Bass and Darrell Steinberg, Weitzman is the money man for Sacramento’s Democratic powers. When the LA Times hit Fabian Nuñez for questionable pending of campaign funds, Weitzman was there to take part of the fall. That kind of customer loyalty has endeared Weitzman to his clients, and turned him into one of the most successful fundraisers in the state.
71. Dave Low, lobbyist, California School Employees Association
Low is more than just a lobbyist. He is a strategist and strong voice inside the state’s larger labor family. Over the last decade, Low has been out front on some of organized labor’s most important fights, and is an integral part of the labor debate inside the Capitol.
72. Deborah Gonzalez, chief consultant, Assemblyman Mike Villines
Gonzalez is a policy wonk with a keen political eye. She was a sounding board for the last Republican Assembly Speaker, Curt Pringle, and continues to play that role for Villines. No Republican budget decision gets made without Gonzalez in the room, and perhaps no Republican staffer in the building knows more about such a wide variety of policy issues.
73. Robin Johansen, partner, Remcho, Johansen & Purcell
As a founding partner of one of the most powerful political law firms in the state, Johansen has been the go-to legal source for Democrats in the Legislature and many Democratic statewide elected officials. She is a mainstay of the state initiative process, and has been involved in major battles involving school funding.
74. Lance Olson, attorney, Olson Hagel & Fishburn
Since 1982, Olson has been the lawyer for the Democratic Party. And to this day, he continues to advise legislative leadership. When the parties wanted a campaign finance system that would satiate voters’ need for reform, but allow big money to flow through the political parties, they turned to Olson, who drafted Proposition 34, approved by voters in 2000.
75. Bev Hansen, partner, Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller
As a former Assemblymember and part of one of the largest lobbying firms in Sacramento, Hansen is a resource of knowledge and institutional memory. While her firm represents a wide array of clients, Hansen is a heavy in the world of health policy, and it the HMO’s heavy hitter inside the Capitol.
76. Fabian Nuñez, partner, Mercury Public Affairs
As arguably the most successful Assembly Speaker since Willie Brown, and with millions of dollars still in his political bank account, Nuñez remains a force in California politics. Trained at the knee of Miguel Contreras, Nuñez’s ties to labor and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have served him well, and if he does decide to run for Gil Cedillo’s Senate seat, he will immediately be a power center in that house.
77. John Sullivan, president, Civil Justice Association of California
One of the great, long-standing political feuds in state politics is the one between the consumer attorneys and CJAC. Sullivan is the legal voice for many business groups, and Sullivan’s well-funded group has been successful both in offense and defense at the ballot box. CJAC backed Proposition 64, which his group said would stop “shakedown lawsuits” in the state. Sullivan also was instrumental in helping defeat a pair of initiatives backed by trial lawyers in 1996 – Proposition 207 and Propositon 211.
78. Rex Frazier, president, Personal Insurance Federation of California
As head of the trade group that represents California’s most powerful property-casualty insurers — including Farmers, State Farm and Allstate – Frazier is a major policy player and as well-known in the Capitol as he is unknown to the public. Frazier, a former Assembly staffer and ranking official in the state Department of Insurance, was a banking attorney in private practice. He became president of PIF after his predecessor left to
join the Schwzarzenegger administration.
79. Mark Macarro, chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
Nobody did more to put tribal politics on the map than Mark Macarro. He was the face of the Proposition 5 and Proposition 1A campaigns. And when it came time for Pechanga to update a handful of tribal compacts, Macarro was once again in the thick of the negotiations. Tribal issues have recessed from the frontlines of state politics somewhat, but if and when they do re-emerge, Macarro is sure to be in the mix.
80. Adam Mendelsohn, partner, Mercury Public Affairs
When Maria Shriver was looking to save her husband’s administration, she called Adam Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn took over the governor’s communications shop after the 2005 special election, and worked hand-in-hand with Susan Kennedy to put the governor back on track. Mendelsohn also brought in his friend Steve Schmidt to manage the governor’s reelection campaign. Mendelsohn remains the governor’s political brain, and has relationships with the press and clients that will outlast his current client’s time in the Horseshoe.
81. Garry South, political consultant
South earned a reputation as a master strategist after the election of Gray Davis. He has become a national voice on California politics, and is now a senior adviser to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. In a world of button-down suits who take themselves too seriously, South is an eccentric, larger than life figure and is not afraid to go for the political jugular.
82. Larry Higby, advisor Apria Healthcare Group
A politically savvy businessman – he’s run Apria for years – Higby is an unusual blend of politics, business and the media. He was a top aide to Bob Haldeman, Richard Nixon’s former chief of staff, and he worked for eight years as the Los Angeles Times’ executive vice president of marketing. His political clout stems from his role in the New Majority, a Republican group in Orange County that backs moderate Republican candidates. Higby, a co-founder of the group, is the New Majority’s current chairman.
83. John Mockler, lobbyist, John Mockler & Associates
In the arcane world of education funding, John Mockler is the Oracle. Joe Matthews once joked the Legislature should introduce a Constitutional amendment that Mockler must live forever, lest there be nobody left who understands Proposition 98 – the measure written by Mockler that guarantees funding for public schools. Since education funding is implicated in every budget decision, Mockler is still a part of any change on tax policy or spending reductions in the Capitol.
84. Alice Huffman, president, California NAACP
Huffman’s endorsement is still one of the most coveted in the state. While she has been criticized for using the NAACP endorsement as a carrot to drum up consulting business, the fact remains, if there’s a major campaign in California, a call to Huffman’s shop is de rigueur.
85. Roger Salazar, partner, Acosta/Salazar
Salazar and his firm are part of the cadre of rising political stars that still merit mention on this list. Salazar is a veteran of the Clinton White House, the Al Gore campaign and the David administration. He also serves as the chief spokesman for the state Democratic Party. His firm has carved out a niche representing moderate candidates and issues, with a focus on causes and candidates in the Central Valley. Both Salazar and his partner, Andrew Acosta, hail from Lodi, and the firm’s expertise will only become more important to Democrats as the state’s population and power drifts inland.
86. Steve Maviglio, president, Forza Communications
Not since Pete Wilson’s communications guru Sean Walsh has the Capitol seen a more effective and operational spinmeister. Maviglio is a source for every political reporter in the state. His proximity to power, and his willingness to dish candidly, while still spinning avidly, makes him a rarity among political professionals, and an asset for any corporate or political client.
87. Merrill Jacobs, Western Regional Officer, PhRMA
When PhRMA comes in, they come in strong. When Democrats tried to push prescription drug mandates through legislation, they rallied to kill the proposal. And when activists went to the ballot to pass a discount drug measure, PhRMA did the expensive and Machiavellian thing – introduced a competing measure to create voter confusion, and ensure the demise of both proposals. When the going got tough, Jacobs knew who to call, enlisting the support of seemingly every former major political power in the state to help his cause.
88. Peter Schaafsma, chief consultant, Assembly Republican Caucus
Schaafsma is the guru of budget and fiscal policy inside the Assembly. Most of the time, that means trying to hold the line against Democratic majorities. But Schaafsma helps advise Republican leaders on policy decisions, and makes sure the language in the bills actually reflects the decisions and deals made at the negotiating table.
89. Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix
Hastings is one of the Silicon Valley millionaires who likes to affect policy from behind the scenes. He was a member of the state board of education, appointed by Gray Davis and reappointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, only to have his confirmation tubed by Sen. Martha Escutia. Hastings is a major backer of EdVoice, which has served as a booster for charter schools and has not been shy about taking on the powerful teacher’s unions.
90. Yvonne Walker, president, SEIU Local 1000
As head of the largest state employee union, Walker is a powerful voice in the state’s labor politics. Her local was able to hash out a deal with Gov. Schwarzenegger in the midst of contentious budget negotiations. Local 1000 has proven to be an adept political player, stepping away ever so slightly from the SEIU state council when circumstances demand. While the SEIU contract faces an uncertain legislative future, Walker and her union remain major political players.
91. Ken Gibson, vice president American Insurance Association
Gibson handles the entire West for the AIA, but the jewel in the crown is California, where insurers and trial attorneys have battled for years. Gibson, a veteran of the executive branch and formerly the No. 2 man in the Department of Insurance, is a member of the troika of California top insurance advocates. The other two are Rex Frazier and Sam Sorich, and all have a major impact on insurance regulation.
92. Sam Sorich, president, Association of California Insurance Companies
If there is a dean of insurance advocacy in California, it’s probably Sam Sorich, who heads the insurers’ oldest trade association, with some 300 members that write about 40 percent of the state’s property-casualty coverage. Sorich, courtly and meticulous, seems to be everywhere at once. Among other things, his office produces a weekly digest of insurance-linked legislation highly regarded in the industry.
93. Steve Coony, chief of staff, Treasurer Bill Lockyer
There is no more trusted adviser in Bill Lockyer’s inner circle than Steve Coony. Coony has been with Lockyer since Lockyer’s time in the Senate, and has followed him to the attorney general and treasurer’s offices. Lockyer made Coony a deputy attorney general, and now, Coony represents Lockyer on the CalPERS board, and is part of the cumulative brainpower that makes Lockyer perhaps the biggest policy wonk among California elected officials.
94. Robert Hertzberg, co-chair, California Forward
The job of speaker doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but Hertzberg has remained close to the centers of power since h
is time in the office. He launched an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Los Angeles against his former friend Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005, but emerged as a leading advocate for the San Fernando Valley. He is still called by Gov. Schwarzenegger, who refers to him as “Hertzy,” for advice on policy and political issues. And now, he is looking to remake state government in his new role as co-chair of California Forward.
95. John Myers, reporter, KQED Radio
While Capitol coverage is a dying art, Myers has done more than any other journalist to change the way the Capitol is covered. In a town not known for technological innovations, Myers has always been up on the latest reporting trend, whether it be a blog, a podcast or a Twitter feed. While other reporters may have more reach, we defy you to find another reporter – print or broadcast – who has had a greater impact within the Capitol community about how state government is covered.
96. Greg Campbell, senior consultant, Speaker Karen Bass
In the state Assembly, most of the big legislation involves organized labor in one way or another. And if it involves labor, Greg Campbell is in the middle of the discussion. As the speaker’s roving senior policy adviser, Campbell has been a trusted voice on everything from workers compensation reform to health care to tribal gaming compacts. He is part of a cadre of senior staff that ensures some measure of institutional consistency in a world of term-limits inflicted turnover.
97. Barry Broad, principal, Broad & Gusman
The powerful labor attorney has been in the middle of a lot of legislative fights over the years. His firm’s lobbying clients range from the Teamsters to podiatrists to scientists to jockeys—not to mention several powerful public employee unions. Last year, he also found time to publish a thriller about nuclear terrorism called “Eve of Destruction”—reportedly dreamed up while he was sitting through a particularly boring legislative hearing.
98. Kassy Perry, president, Perry Communications
She hardly looks old enough, but Kassy Perry has advised two not-so-recent California governors, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, and also used to work with Katie Couric. These days, her firm, Perry Communications is one of the top PR firms in California politics. The firm’s bread and butter is representing companies and organization involved in health care—sure to be a top issue in coming years. Their highest profile recent effort is coming in at the last minute to try to help save the failed No on Proposition 8 campaign, but no one seems to be holding that against them.
99. Jack Flanigan, The Flanigan Firm
For all his accomplishments, Jack Flanigan may be best known these days for his nephews. The Flanigans seems to be everywhere – and have been in the upper echelon of Calfornia political power for generations. Jack’s own three-decade career saw him become one of the most sought GOP public affairs strategists in the state, as well as directing the California Housing Council and serving several years as president of public affairs at the Irvine Company.
100. C. Duane Dauner, California Hospitals Association
CHA is a major health-care player in the Capitol and around the state. Dauner was involved in exacting last-minute changes to the governor’s health care plan, and was viewed by the administration as an essential part of any health care coalition. With the major health care reform discussion ebbing for now, Dauner and his association remain tangled in dozens of legislative webs inside the Capitol.