Another year, another Top 100 list, but there’s a big difference in this go-round: This is the first time we’ve put the list into a dedicated booklet and we think that’s pretty snazzy. The list, like Capitol Weekly itself, is now being published by the public benefit corporation Open California — and that’s cool, too.
But back to the list: What this subjective ranking of unelected political players lacks in scientific rigor and methodology, it makes up for in passion, fun and a certain insight into the institutional wisdom of the Capitol and its environs. That’s exactly what we’re after.
One skeptical friend, a veteran lobbyist who has more clients than Capitol Weekly has typos, scanned the list carefully and pronounced judgment: “It’s within the margin of error.” We’re content.
There are newbies this year – new to the list, but definitely not new to the world of state politics — and, as usual, there were people we overlooked.
But this is a work in progress, and we’ll make up for it next year, and the year after that. Two people who should have been on the list – their last names begin with “M” – will pop up in 2014. There will be others.
And there are the usual suspects, perhaps ranked differently than before, who are back this year. We try to keep them off, but they keep getting on, and for all the right reasons. It is a continuing source of amazement to us that many people take this list far more seriously than we do, but we are happy to accept their view. And since putting it together this year was harder than it’s ever been, we’re taking the Top 100 a lot more seriously, too. When you devote 12 hours a day to a project, the hard work starts trumping the fun, although not the satisfaction. There’s a lot more than a list of names here, there’s the graphics, the presentation, the printing and the distribution. Whew.
And there’s a need for full disclosure. Four of those on the Top 100 are members of our 13-member governing board of directors, although it should be noted that all were on the list before we even had a board. Capitol Weekly has personal ties to the California Professional Firefighters – my daughter is their legislative director. One of our board members on the list represents TASIN, a longtime supporter of Capitol Weekly and, before that, the California Journal. And the president and CEO of the California Endowment is on the list, as is the Endowment’s senior vice president in Sacramento. The Endowment is a financial supporter of Open California.
Finally, the ranking this year is heavier with lobbyists, a bit lighter with strategists and definitely lighter with fund-raisers.
There were some quantum leaps, too: AT&T’s Bill Devine moved into No. 6, Tom Steyer zoomed in from the stratosphere to No. 20, while former Finance Director Ana Matosantos and her successor disappeared entirely. Gale Kaufman is up at No. 15, and if you beat back Proposition 32 you could be there, too. Meanwhile, Catherine Reheis-Boyd of the Western States Petroleum Association came in at 25.
Well, that’s it – until next year.
Soyla Fernández, a leading Capitol lobbyist, has over 20 years of experience with California’s state and local legislative and policy issues, and heads one of the state’s most prominent Latina-owned and operated lobbying firms. Fernández Government Solutions was formed in 2004, with clients that include Southern California Edison, the North Fork Rancheria, the city of Sacramento and a number of water districts, among others. Prior to becoming the principal and owner to her own firm, Fernández was an associate at Manning Advocates, and before that was appointed to Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency and the Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency. Under former Assembly Speaker and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, she acted as senior budget consultant for the Assembly Budget Committee.
Mark Baldassare is the president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit, independent think tank that provides in-depth research and regular surveys the mood of Californians. PPIC’s polls are perhaps the most publicly visible of PPIC’s projects, but it is the research that defines the group. PPIC has a deep academic component, as well, and chooses which surveys to undertake rather than waiting for political clients to direct the action. Baldassare joined PPIC in 1996 – just two years after it was established with an endowment from William R. Hewlett – and was named president in 2007. Under Baldassare the organization has established a Sacramento political operation staffed by Dave Lesher, a former L.A. Times reporter and California Journal editor. Full disclosure: Lesher also is president of the board of Open California, publisher of Capitol Weekly. A sociologist by training, Baldassare is that rare academic who makes a substantive contribution to the real rough and tumble of Capitol politics.
98. Donna Brownsey
The senior VP of Sacramento Advocates – she works with Barry Brokaw, who’s also on our list — is behind lots of touchy-feely sounding causes: adoption, breast cancer, dispute resolution. Don’t be fooled. She joined the lobbying corps 18 years ago, when there were far fewer women in positions of power in the industry and became the first woman in Sacramento to establish her own major firm. Brownsey is known for having a sharp mind for legislative language and a preference for working behind the scenes. And she’s been deep in water issues — a sink-or-swim pool for any lobbyist, to be sure. Full disclosure: Years ago, she mentored the editor’s daughter, who was interning in the Capitol with Bob Forsyth and who decided she liked the political world. Brownsey made news this year when she successfully dislodged artist Maren Conrad’s “Politically Vulnerable” paintings of Governors’ sex partners from their roost at the Vanguard nightclub, charging that the work belittled womens’ contribution to politics.
Fundraiser extraordinaire Dan Weitzman is a Democratic political junkie to his fingertips, he’s handled the top folks for years – leaders in both houses and a select group of up-and-comers with whom he has relationships. But mainly he’s identified with the Democratic leadership. Successful political fundraising requires first-rate networking, aggression mixed with deft social skills, a thorough knowledge of politics and a good sense of the bottom line. Weitzman has them all and is a key – but largely unknown – player in the Capitol’s political battles. By the way, we follow Weitzman on Twitter, but we’re not sure why: Every few hours he tweets where he is at that moment – lunch, coffee shop, store, etc – and that’s it. We keep wanting to reply, “So what?” but his tweets are locked. Beyond that, he’s still got the best office in Sacramento: An old, used-brick enclave on O Street with outside wooden stairs and the light rail line in front.
We’ve said this before, but it continues to be true: In the arcane world of political redistricting, there are few real experts and Paul Mitchell is one of them. He’s Vice President of Political Data Inc., but to journalists, politicians and political pros he’s better known as owner of Redistricting Partners, which provided a wealth of data on California’s voter-approved process of drawing political boundaries, and since then has crunched numbers on candidates and ballot measures. He not only crunches numbers, he analyzes them and comes up with results that are far from apparent at a cursory glance. A detail maven – he’s got a master’s in urban planning and econometrics (gasp!) from USC – and he’s been involved in numerous campaigns up and down the state. He also is a hardcore bicyclist.
Tenacious but personable, Angie Tate is the chief financial officer of the California Democratic party. A good thing, too, because she’s put the party in better financial shape than it’s ever been. In the Senate, she helped John Burton build record-breaking campaign war chests, as in 2012 when the party poured $3.5 million into targeted congressional races, helping the Dems pick up six seats. Angie started working for Burton 15 years ago when she was 5 1/2 months pregnant, and when Burton became Democratic Party chair, she agreed to be the money person. A side note: After agreeing to take the job, she found out the party had $1.12 in the bank. Yes, $1.12. The Democratic Party now has just under $10 million in its state account. This year, Angie led the purchase of a permanent office building for the party, buying the old Wishing Well building downtown. She’s also a friend and advisor of Gov. Brown and his wife, Anne.
94. Charles Bell
If Robin Johansen and her colleagues are at the core of the Democratic legal machine, then Chuck Bell (with partners Tom Hiltachk and Colleen McAndrews) is at the heart if the GOP’s court strategy. It’s always a toss-up who to list in this spot, so we choose Bell for convenience, but certainly Hiltachk and Andrews easily fill the bill, too. If there’s a legal battle involving Republicans anywhere, anytime, then Bell is either leading the charge, defending against the enemy or offering sought-after advice to everyone else. This can get awfully busy, since politics and legal challenges seem to go together like bread and butter. The GOP may be wounded now, but one thing they’ve got is solid legal chops. Bell has the good lawyer’s knack of explaining even intricate issues with clarity and simplicity, and if you think that’s not a valuable skill, you try it sometime.
David Townsend is a long-time Sacramento political strategist who has handled so many campaigns over the years that it’s hard to keep track. He’s won some – a lot, actually – and he’s lost some, but he’s still there with a top-flight operation that draws major clients. State and national campaign strategists looking for Sacramento-based help invariably seek out Townsend. In 2010, Townsend had a big piece of the unsuccessful $46 million campaign by PG&E to make it harder for locals to set up their own municipal utility districts, but since then he has been involved in the myriad discussions to place a downtown sports complex in Sacramento and the related effort involving the local basketball team. Townsend has been a key adviser to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who won a major political victory when the Sacramento Kings remained rather than head for Seattle.
Jason Kinney, a political consultant and strategist at California Strategies, handles major Democrats, including Lt. Gavin Newsom, among others, and works on any number of major projects, most of which we know nothing about until they make headlines. Kinney, who’s close to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, worked in Gray Davis’ communications shop and is known best in the Capitol and among reporters for his political connections and savvy, but he’s also advised any number of corporate clients, including AT&T, perhaps the single most powerful corporate presence in the Capitol (see Bill Devine, No. 6). Kinney also knows the relationships between strategists, candidates and clients, and is a walking encyclopedia of what’s going on beyond the public view.
91. Jon Fleischman
The FlashReport was one of the first and most influential information sources for political junkies, especially Republicans, who looked to it for commentary, coverage and leadership they found nowhere else. Jon Fleischman’s well-organized site aggregates general news, includes staff-written and other commentary and has a near-constant cycle of blog postings from staff and partners. It’s also a site for the trials and turmoil of the GOP, targeting miscues, offering support – or opposition – on specific issues, smacking the Dems whenever possible and generally causing trouble. What makes the FlashReport valuable is that it’s a place for GOP muscle-flexing without the screeds, rants and raves of the far-right sites. Fleischman, who founded the FlashReport in 2001, has a consulting group and he’s served as a local and state GOP official, although he’s not shy about whacking Reeps if he thinks they’ve strayed. The FlashReport also breaks news.
90. Chris McKenzie
Somewhere, somehow, there’s always a fight going on involving the cities, and the fights in the past two years over redevelopment agencies and realignment-related issues are just two examples. The redevelopment agencies were abolished by Brown two years ago, but the fight isn’t over: Legislation simmers in the Capitol to wangle funding for worthy redevelopment-type projects – low income housing, for example – and the success of the attempt may rest in the end on the clout of Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities. Enterprise zones are another hot topic – again, the plan to abolish them is coming from Brown – and the loss of the 40 zones and $700 million in local business tax and hiring incentives means a lot’s at stake. But McKenzie, still scarred from the redevelopment fight, is ready. It ain’t over till it’s over.
When one thinks of counties’ advocacy, the California State Association of Counties comes to mind. But there’s another group, too: The Regional Council of Rural Counties, nearly four decades old, which is involved in some of the hottest issues of the Capitol, including curbing greenhouse gas emissions, land use restrictions, transportation, water rights, growth and the like. The fights are usually uphill, but nobody said it would be easy. On water alone, a topic of vital interest to the counties, this year and next will see major political battles, as the Brown administration seeks to push through the twin-tunnels Delta project. And at the center of RCRC is Patricia Megason, the group’s executive vice president, who helps translate the will of RCRC’s governing board into action. And that’s no easy chore, but she does it.
Christy Bouma, who owns Capitol Connection, is the top lobbyist for the California Professional Firefighters, an aggressive, well-financed labor group and a top player in Democratic politics. Example: CPF took a lead role in successfully opposing the passage of Proposition 32 last November. Capitol Connection has done work for others, including the California School Employees Association — a nice fit, since Bouma was a teacher for 11 years. But her principal role is to advocate for CPF, which is more than a full-time job. We’ve always liked the pugnacious CPF – full disclosure: our editor’s daughter works there, and she’s pugnacious, too – because they like fights and seem to enjoy being in the front line. Since the Capitol is nothing but fights lately, CPF fits right in.
It’s been more than 15 years since Jack Kavanagh created Rough & Tumble, the web site that offers a straight, daily compilation of California political news. It’s still the go-to place to keep up on Sacramento news coverage. It’s the first must-read for Capitol political reporters who, thirsting for traffic, want their stories to appear and be linked on Rough & Tumble. Journalists around the state covering state-related stories feel the same way and increasingly Washington tales grace the site, giving R&T a growing national audience. For reporters the attraction of R&T is that you know your colleagues and competitors are seeing your stuff, and for general readers R&T offers an easy way to grab news without sifting through homepages and rants. Kavanagh is a former television reporter in Sacramento and he set up R&T as an in-house way of educating fellow newsies at Channel 13 about politics. It proved so popular, he decided to expand it.
Brown is a player when it comes to retirement in California, both in her work as a governmental advocate for DiMare, Van Vleck & Brown LLC, where she represents the California Retired County Employees Association, and as publisher of the online newsletter The Public Retirement Journal. She also used to work for the League of Cities, and the realignment plan that was pushed by another Brown, Jerry, made that expertise even more valuable. Amy Brown has been active in workers’ compensation issues as well, and served on the California Commission for Workers’ Compensation and worked on the industry changes that were signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2004. While at the League, her work topics have included health care, telecommunications, labor relations, open meetings and government transparency. She’s also worked in local government in Citrus Heights, San Jose and Oakland, and served as an aide to former Assemblyman Mike Sweeney.
Confronting the complexity and magnitude of the state’s education budget would be a daunting prospect for most people, but for Rick Simpson it’s just a day on the job. Simpson is the Assembly’s lead on school funding. His official title is Deputy Chief of Staff to Speaker John Pérez, but his function is to track education money and suggest policy changes, when needed. And they are often needed. He’s a Democrat and he’s been advising Assembly speakers for years, with Pérez the latest. He’s served at various capacities in the Capitol, and he also served at the top government relations executive at the California School Boards Association, where he mixed education, politics and strategy. Simpson has a gift that many in education funding don’t – he can explain it clearly to others. He’s given background briefings to reporters and their stories were better for it.
Jacob Appelsmith is a senior adviser to Jerry Brown, having served with Brown in the attorney general’s office and, among other things, worked in A.G.’s Bureau of Gambling Control, which rides herd on some 60 tribal casinos and 90 card rooms across California. The experience there was critical, because after joining the governor’s office he took on the difficult and sensitive function of negotiating gaming compacts with California’s casino-owning tribes. By all accounts, Appelsmith, a Boalt Hall graduate who clerked for state Supreme Court Justice Allen Broussard, has done well at the job. He also clerked at law firms in New York and Portland and began his career as a commercial litigator with Pillsbury Madison in San Francisco, one of the most prominent legal firms in the state. He leaves the Brown Administration soon to work as a top UC lawyer.
Rusty Areias, a former Assemblyman, chair of the California Coastal Commission and political consultant extraordinaire, is one of the pros in the stable at California Strategies, Bob White’s consulting and communications firm. Areias knows the Capitol up and down, in and out. He was a member of the “Gang of Five,” the five Assembly members who challenged Speaker Willie Brown ‘s authority in the late 1980s – a move that drew solid support from his Los Banos-area district. He knows more stories about more people, some of which include himself. He stumbled in a race for a 12th District Senate seat – Republican Jeff Denham beat him out – but he wound up as the head of the California Coastal Commission, serving during a turbulent period when there was a concerted, unsuccessful effort to oust the powerful executive director, Peter Douglas. Areias’ wife is Julie Sandino, a major Democratic fundraiser, and between them they are potent political players.
Scott Lay has served as the president and chief executive officer of the Community College League of California, a nonprofit association serving the state’s 72 community college districts in various areas, since 2006. In 1995 he joined the league as intern while studying at UC Davis after his time as Legislative Chair of the California Student Association of Community Colleges. A high-school dropout, Lay eventually attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and credits educators there for providing him the skills and knowledge needed to earn bachelors and law degrees at UC Davis. This is impressive indeed, but there’s more. Scott is a magician with online data and political analysis. He co-founded Capitol Weekly’s The Roundup in 2005, and he is the founder of AroundTheCapitol.com and ElectionTrack.com. He does the Nooner, an email blast on politics that goes out daily at – wait for it – noon to 4,000 subscribers. He’s fast, too: He was the first to break the news that FBI agents were in the Capitol during the Calderon probe.
Mike Madrid knows politics, local government and state government, and how they all come together. As realignment and other state programs move forward, that shift in authority from Sacramento to the locals, knowing the landscape outside of the Capitol is valuable. He’s been a long-time adviser to the League of California Cities and was in the middle of the fight against Gov. Brown’s first major policy offensive, the abolishment of California’s redevelopment agencies. The governor’s efforts to cut enterprise zones, which have been around for decades to encourage businesses to locate in low-income areas, are also on the front burner for Madrid and his city allies. He heads a campaign strategy and data group called Grassroots Lab, and he also is involved in the Leadership California Institute, which, among other things, seeks to identify early contenders across the state for local and state offices. In part, the idea is track the up and comers from early on.
With over 25 years of experience in the capitol, Dick Temple is one of Sacramento’s best-known political consultants. Temple has spent the last 20 years of his time in California politics at McNally Temple Associates, one of the state’s premier PR and political consulting operations. As the firm’s executive vice president, Temple knows the political landscape down to the ground and wields influence over numerous issues and has influence among the players in the political community. Despite the firm’s history as a staple in California Republican campaigns, McNally Temple Associates has a strongly bipartisan influence in the Capitol, particularly given its involvement in labor issues such as its work with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Given the importance of the group in the re-alignment debate, and despite the Republicans’ apparent dwindling of political influence, at least for now, consultants like Temple will remain front and center.
Ray McNally has been a go-to consultant for California’s conservatives for many years, so one might assume that with the decline in California Republican’s political power, there would be a similar loss in McNally’s. But being one of the Capitol’s most experienced political players means that McNally knows how to play the game. His alliances with labor organizations and other left-leaning groups and people in Sacramento has given McNally bipartisan influence in the Capitol and helped maintain his firm, McNally Temple’s longstanding reputation as one of the Sacramento’s strongest public relations firm. It’s not surprising that McNally is so capable of the political calculation, given the length of his experience in California politics. He was around years before he founded his firm in 1980 and has done everything from media relations to political consulting for a widespread number of groups and people in the Capitol.
Dan Walters has been writing columns and analyses for the Bee for nearly 30 years, and before that he had a similar role – plus reporting – at the defunct Sacramento Union. Today, Walters does both. He does analyses and opinion pieces, but he also does reporting – generally in shorter form than when his first priority was to fill a newsprint hole. To those who follow Walters – and in the Capitol and among the lobbyists and advocates, that’s most of them – the changes in Walter’s delivery are apparent. Those changes are largely a function of the Web, which demands constant postings. What hasn’t changed, however, is Walters’ basic approach, which is skepticism of just about everything, especially Dems and Jerry Brown. The deeply sourced Walters loves to skewer authority and point out the daily hypocrisies of the Capitol, which is one reason why he’s popular with his readership. Another is that he writes in a straightforward, just-the-facts style. A new role: He’s featured in the Bee’s videos.
Dan Morain is a senior editor and opinion writer at the Sacramento Bee, where he combines straightforward reporting with analysis and commentary – a combination that makes him a solid read and a go-to place for those looking for insight into the Capitol’s political stew, not only from government people but from other reporters as well. Morain casts a wide net – anything that strikes his fancy is fair game. He’s written on mental health care, Tom McClintock’s pension, the pervasive influence of lobbyists on government, environmental protection, money in politics – you name it, he’s probably written about it. His columns appear several times a week, including Sundays, and when he’s not doing those, he’s handling other writing chores, including editorials. Before joining the Bee, Morain reported for the Los Angeles Times’ Sacramento bureau, where he wrote extensively on the influence of money on politics, including campaign donations, independent expenditures, corporate and labor contributions, and many others.
Bill Dombrowski has headed the California Retailers Association for nearly two decades, representing some 167,000 businesses doing $571 billion worth of trade annually. Those are big numbers, so there’s usually a lot at stake for retailers in virtually every budget fight — sales tax hikes, for example — although the group’s interests go far beyond taxes to credit regulation, garment manufacturing, privacy, alcohol and tobacco sales. A recent fight, in which the retailers and their allies emerged victorious, was to block a labor-backed attempt to penalize large retailers if they didn’t pay enough to keep their workers off the Medi-Cal rolls. Dombrowski was a key player in the coalition that blocked the measure by picking off enough Democrats, a critical demonstration of the vulnerability of the supermajority. Dumbrowski is a former chairman of the Industrial Welfare Commission, which sets the minimum wage and deals with overtime issues. He’s also worked with the California Business Roundtable and the Los Angeles Urban League.
Alice Huffman has been a player in the Capitol’s hardball politics since the 1980s; she gives no quarter and expects none. Now she is president of the NAACP in California and remains a shrewd political player – a combination that gives her influence, particularly when it comes to endorsements and raising funds, but for others whose causes she supports. Huffman, who had close ties to former Speaker Willie Brown, is a familiar figure in California who once represented the California Teachers Association, so she knows how to move money, and lots of it, around for political leverage. She’s also not afraid to buck the party line if it means pushing the agenda of a client – which sometimes makes her fellow Democrats nervous. She’s not as overtly visible as she once was, but within the closed community of the Capitol she remains a potent, and sometimes unpredictable force.
In a Sacramento Bee feature last year, L.A. attorney Brian Kabateck described hiding his liberal opinions from his conservative family throughout his time as a student at USC. Now, it’s Brian’s views that have helped make him a political warrior as president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, an aggressive and well-funded political advocacy group that traditionally has opposed major deep-pocket business interests, especially insurers. Ironically, there is a good-natured family tiff here, too: Brian often leads the charge against corporate and business interests, including those represented by his brother, John Kabateck, who heads the NFIB’s California operation. But Brian seems unabashed about picking fights with his brother or any other opponents, for that matter. By one calculation, Brian reportedly has won more than $1 billion for his clients, and in the Capitol has helped draft industry regulations that were sure to create some tense family get-togethers.
To the general public, the California Dental Association may not be viewed as a major Capitol political player, but indeed it is – in spades. It’s been around since 1870 and represents some 25,000 dentists, targeting such touchstone issues such as regulation and quality of care. One of the reasons it wields such influence is Liz Snow, who is in the middle of the dentists’ political battles and who holds sway over their powerful PAC. Snow is the chief operations officer of the CDA, a role that is all but certain to increase in importance as the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in next year and millions of people swarm into the system for coverage through Medi-Cal or elsewhere. The restoration of optional adult dental services under Medi-Cal also is a key factor for the CDA.
Robin Johansen is a founding partner of Remcho, Johansen and Purcell, known in the Capitol as the “Remcho law firm” after the late Joe Remcho, a political battler and Democrat who represented the party in and out of court. The firm’s cadre of lawyers has been involved in most of the major Democratic legal fights during the past three decades, including redistricting, political reform issues and initiatives. Johansen is at the center of those fights – most of which she’s won. Not without help however: The firm includes Karen Getman, the former chair of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, and James Harrison, a workhorse litigator who has represented the Legislature, the state controller, ballot measure proponents or foes, candidates, and much more and, on top of all that, he’s the former president of the Political Attorneys Association.
71. Jon Waldie
Turning to the Assembly, Schmidt’s counterpart is Jon Waldie and his task is similar: He manages the Assembly staff, enforces the administrative rules and tracks such things as office space, employee benefits and the endless hassles of managing a political environment. The closest private parallel would be the personnel director in large corporation, but the differences are far greater than the similarities. And Waldie, who is sane, unflappable and balanced, also has sharp political instincts — an absolute necessity when it comes to heading off embarrassing staff blowouts, fielding press issues and making sure that what’s private stays private. Those can include personnel issues, job-related complaints and the like. Waldie’s job – and he’s a master at it – is to keep the ship sailing on course. Like many staffers in the Capitol, Waldie has politics in his DNA. He’s the son of the late Jerry Waldie, who served seven years in the Assembly and carried the constitutional amendment that created a full-time Legislature.
Greg Schmidt is the Secretary of the Senate and has been since 1996, which means he is the top administrator in the upper house, responsible for managing a staff of hundreds and putting into practice the wishes of the Senate’s members. That twin function is a balancing act, difficult at best, but Schmidt pulls it off, in part because he exemplifies the requirements of his position — he’s fast, discreet and detail driven, and knows the Senate from top to bottom. He also doesn’t chat aimlessly with reporters — darn it — and he’s the staff man who gets things done and runs the house smoothly. If 17 years seems like a long time at one job, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the stint of Secretary Joseph Beek, who had the gig for nearly 50 years, starting in 1919. Now that’s tenure.
Mike Jimenez is the president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which was founded in 1957 but drew little public attention until more than two decades later, when crime-conscious Californians started expanding the state’s prison system. The CCPOA, which provides the officers and others at California prisons, is not as visible as it once was — budget cuts and the increasing transfer of prisoners to local custody has played a part in that — but the CCPOA still has the ability to move around major campaign cash and is a force to be reckoned with in Sacramento. Jimenez is leading the union, and he’s got his work cut out for him: Reductions in the inmate population ordered by the federal courts and the Brown administration’s drive to lower the inmate numbers play out at the CCPOA, where staffing levels face proportionate cuts. The prison staffs are largely dependent on the state’s General Fund, which means that funding often is in doubt, year to year.
Ralph Simoni is the top consultant at California Advocates, the state’s oldest contract lobbying firm, established in 1970. Simoni joined the firm in 1983 and for years he headed California Advocates as president. Simoni has built a sterling reputation in the Capitol as balanced, accurate and effective, and his firm certainly reflects those same attributes. California Advocates has something of the aura of an old, established law firm about it rather than a blue-chip lobbying operation, a perception that’s not far off the mark. The firm provides management services to state, local and national clients, including other lobbyists. The firm has nearly 50 clients and has a certain international reach, such as its efforts for the World Bank on California public pension fund investments. He’s previously served in positions with the CSU and Community Colleges, the California Land Title Association and the State Bar of California. He’s a graduate of CSU San Francisco and UC Davis, Martin Luther King Jr. School of Law.
Speaking of Republican lawyers, Steve Merksamer inevitably enters the conversation. A Sacramentan, Merksamer is at the intersection of law and politics, and has been for decades. He’s been involved in statewide politics at least since the time he served with then-Attorney General George Deukmejian, then followed Deukmejian as the top staffer when Deukmejian was elected governor in 1982 after a hair-raising race against L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley. Merksamer and an enduring partner of Chip Nielsen in the Nielsen Merksamer law firm — full name, Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni. He knows the Capitol inside and out. He is courted for his legal savvy as well as his political knowledge — a potent combination, as his blue-chip client list attests. Merksamer has been a force in the Capitol since the days of bell-bottoms, wide ties and mutton chops.
For insight on the politics, policy and benefits of the Brown administration’s $24.5 billion Delta twin-tunnels project, you need to go no further than Jerry Meral, the plan’s day-to-day point man in Sacramento. Meral, an environmentalist, kayaker and political player, was tapped early on by the governor to be deputy secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency, in charge of the largest public works project in the nation’s history. Meral previously served Brown’s administration in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as Department of Water Resources’ deputy director. At the time he crusaded against large dams and helped found Friends of the River and the Tuolumne River Trust. Meral served 20 years as executive director for one of the state’s most influential environmental interest groups, the Planning and Conservation League, stepping down in 2003. He also has a penchant for blunt speaking, as when he declared the tunnel project “is not about, and has never been about, saving the Delta.” Delta environmental activists were not pleased.
We’ve thought that the best newspaper columnists are solid wordsmiths and aren’t predictable, repetitive or doctrinaire, and the L.A. Times’ George Skelton passes the test. It helps that he writes for the state’s largest newspaper, but that’s only part of it. We said earlier that his columns have been “tight and grouchy” and they are. He handles his columns like a reporter, showing up with tape recorder and notebook to pin a subject. He often surprises readers, as when he wrote recently that the governor’s and attorney general’s loudly stated reasons for not defending Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court were “hogwash.” Skelton, a former UPI reporter, has covered state politics since Pat Brown was governor and there’s a photo of him floating around showing him with red hair and flat-top getting off a Brown campaign plane. Cool. He’s been at the Times for four decades and it shows in the quality of his columns.
Shari McHugh of McHugh, Koepke & Associates, has a small firm but her reputation is large and her name always pops up when the conversation turns to good lobbyists. McHugh and Associates is a husband-and-wife firm – Gavin McHugh is the husband – that has built a solid client list that includes the prison correctional officers, the manufacturers, the credit unions, insurance interests, education, distilled spirits, and others. McHugh, who has represented business interests, has a wide knowledge of insurance issues, and served as VP of the Coalition of California Insurance Professionals, where she dealt with the industry’s lobbying and regulatory agenda. She also has worked as a liaison with the Department of Insurance, an important role, given that insurers and the Department of Insurance generally are at loggerheads over regulation. Prior to working with PIA, Shari served as a legislative aide for Melendez Associates, a Sacramento-based lobbying firm, where she worked on issues for major California employers such as ARCO, E & J Gallo Winery and the Port of Long Beach.
63. Jim Brulte
Jim Brulte is a solid tactician, and that’s what makes him a good fit for his new gig: Chair of the California Republican Party. Taking over the GOP in California may not seem like a pleasant task, but if anybody can find a path forward, it’s Brulte. He knows what makes winning campaigns and he knows how to convince donors to pony up – Charles Munger Jr. is a significant example. Brulte was GOP leader in both the Senate and Assembly, and he has the street cred among Republicans to crack the whip. His first hire as chair was Cynthia Bryant to run the day-to-day, and his choice drew kudos. Brulte needs a message that will knit the party, drive a wedge into Democrats and have the Reeps stand for something more than no taxes for big business. The GOP has been going after Brown and the Dems on prison issues, but there hasn’t been much traction. But if there’s a way to make it happen, Brulte will find it.
Peter Lee is executive director of Covered California – the Golden State’s operational arm of the federal Affordable Care Act. Covered California is expected to serve up to 5 million Californians when fully implemented — give or take a million — and that alone makes him someone to watch. Since graduating from UC Berkeley (where he first met future California Endowment VP Daniel Zingale), Lee has split time between California and DC, holding high profile gigs at the Pacific Business Group on Health, the Center for Health Care Rights and the National AIDS Network. Before taking the job at Covered California, Lee served in the Obama Administration at the Center for Medicaid and Medical Innovation. Lee’s experience with Pacific Health Advantage – an earlier PBGH attempt at an insurance pool – will prove helpful to give Covered California a smooth launch. Thus far, in the preliminary rounds, there have been few missteps. That, in itself, is a solid gain. The test will come when millions of people knock on the door for coverage.
In the Capitol, when you think of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, you invariably think of Jacob Mejia, the group’s key strategist and communicator, a direct, courteous and immensely knowledgeable explainer of tribal issues. As is the case elsewhere in the political world, Mejia wears several hats. As a top staffer, he has administrative duties. But he also is TASIN’s communications adviser and general point man in the Capitol, which puts him in the center of the political and policy fights affecting his members. The job keeps him busy: with his headquarters actually down in the Inland Empire, he is in constant motion, shuttling regularly between there and the Capitol. A big piece of Mejia’s task is navigating the intricate world of online gaming, the dominant issue for many tribes during the last legislative session, as well as the current one and probably the next one, too. That means he has to reconcile the politics of the Legislature, the governor, the tribes and the gaming partisans — quite a load.
60.Charles Munger Jr.
Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford physicist, has become a significant political figure in California politics, starting with his support of the landmark Proposition 10 in 2010, which extended independent redistricting to congressional seats. Voters earlier approved similar political mapping for legislative and Board of Equalization seats. Munger – he’s the son of Charles Munger, the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway – also is a substantial supporter of the California Republican Party. Last month, the Munger money was felt in the special election for the 16th Senate District seat of Michael Rubio, who had resigned to join Chevron. The Democrats had hoped to keep the seat, but Republican Andy Vidak won the race handily, fueled by an aggressive GOP ground game. Next year’s ballot will contain a measure to regulate health care insurance rates – a fight between between insurers and the trial bar that is likely to draw the pro-business Munger into the fray.
When you think of labor politics and clout, you think of Courtni Pugh, the executive director of SEIU Local 99 who also served as SEIU’s state political director, a major gig in a state where the powerful union is embroiled in battles, and not always with outsiders. A political strategist, Pugh has held senior posts in such campaigns as John Edwards for President, Kerry-Edwards 2004 and Gore-Lieberman 2000. Ms. Pugh also has served the Democratic National Committee, the Alliance for a Better California and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO). Before she was at Local 99, Pugh was the national redistricting project director at SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country, as well as California. She was the first woman and the first Asian Pacific Islander American to hold the job. A former L.A. Times newsie once described her as the “sharpest labor strategist I met” during a brief stint covering labor, and others in the Capitol clearly agree.
Daniel Zingale is the California Endowment’s ‘Man in Sacramento,’ serving as Senior VP of Policy, Communications and Public Affairs. If that title seems broad, well, it is – but it fits the 360 degree view of ‘health’ that defines the Endowment’s efforts. Air Quality? Health. Water quality? Health. The neighborhood surrounding you? Health. From Diabetes awareness ads to Safe Streets community programs to the HealthyCal.org site, the Endowment’s (and Zingale’s) influence is everywhere in the statewide discussion of health and healthcare. And, full disclosure, The Endowment is a supporter of Capitol Weekly, too. Zingale came to the Endowment in January 2009 after a stint as a Special Advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger – an odd fit for a lifelong Democrat – where he was regarded as a linchpin in negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor on healthcare legislation. A Sacramento native, Zingale has been a human rights and healthcare reform activist for over 25 years, and served as Executive Director of AIDS Action and Political Director of the Human Rights Campaign.
At the Senate, Lisa Gasperoni’s job is basic: protect the Democratic majorities in the Senate. She does it well, and more: Democrats not only achieved a majority, they got a supermajority in the upper house, and that happy sound you heard on election night was Gasperoni cheering. Democrats went down in the recent special election in the 16th District, when the GOP contender grabbed the seat from a Democrat who earlier resigned, so the cheering became muted. As Chief Political Consultant to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, Gasperoni has been earning her pay and she has the chops: After 25 years of handling an estimated 200 legislative, supervisorial, city council and mayoral races, you get to know the landscape. She also created LG Campaigns, a political consulting firm that will be affiliated with another major campaign warrior, Gale Kaufman. For Democrats, this sounds a little like Dreamworks. Meanwhile, Gasperoni will continue to advise Steinberg. We said earlier that if Gasperoni oversaw the attainment of two-thirds majorities, she could retire a legend.
Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio always seems to know what’s going on above or below the Capitol’s surface, whether it’s the latest round of intrigue and drawn knives or a full-blown, public political battle. Maviglio, who has worked outside government, inside government and sometimes both at the same time, has deep political roots. He served in the New Hampshire Legislature, which has hundreds of members. In California he has handled numerous consulting and strategy chores, including as an information guru for Gov. Gray Davis and assorted Assembly speakers, including the latest one, John Pérez. In between he has waged a battle with foes of public pensions and even picked a fight with Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica-based activist group. His clients seem to be everywhere, but probably aren’t – it’s just that they are involved in many of the issues that reporters write about. He makes little secret of his spin but his facts are strong enough to carry the day. Plus, he really likes politics. Cool.
Robbie Hunter, Ireland-born, is the new leader of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, succeeding Bob Balgenorth, who retired last year. The Council is a major Capitol labor presence, an umbrella organization with 160 unions representing 350,000 skilled construction workers that has been happy to flex its political muscle over the years. Hunter, who hails from Belfast, took over from Balgenorth after being anointed at the Council’s 61st convention in Santa Monica last October. A key issue for Hunter’s group is maintaining the prevailing wage for local projects, a popular target of nonunion contractors and an especially hot issue now that has been fought in the courts. Hunter earlier served earlier as Executive-Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. Hunter started his apprenticeship as a steel erector working in the Harlan & Wolfe shipyards, where his great-grandfather, John Quinn, had helped organize the union in 1906 and built the gantry cranes on the Titanic. Hunter moved to the U.S. in 1978.
Of all the people or firms we put on this list, the one that draws the most reaction is Bob White, who founded California Strategies and who seems to employ just about everybody except us – probably a smart move. People think we bend over backward to get them on the list, but we don’t. (Better than bending forward, though.) The reality is CalStrat is a target-rich environment for us. White, Gov. Pete Wilson’s chief of staff, is something of an institution now and casts a wide net. His several outfits, by whatever name, do lobbying, communications, strategy, crisis management, campaign handling, corporate imagery – you name it. His players, however loosely affiliated, include Jim Brulte, the former GOP leader of both houses of the Legislature and now the head of the state Republican Party, and Garry South, a Democratic campaign guru with more races than we can list here. Of course, there’s Terry McGann, Carol Whiteside, Rusty Areias, Steve Larson, B.B. Blevins, Jason Kinney, John Flanigan, etc., etc.
Like others on this list, Barry Brokaw paid his dues as a Capitol staffer, working nearly 20 years as a committee consultant and as a legislative chief of staff. His firm, Sacramento Advocates, includes himself and Donna Brownsey (who’s also on this list, by the way), and between them they handle an impressive client lineup that includes Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Western Union, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the American Red Cross, the Delta Coalition, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, and others. Brokaw’s Capitol experience included an 18-year stint with the Sen. Daniel Boatwright, a colorful Concord Democrat. He set up Sacramento Advocates in 1990 and he apparently drew attention: A 1990 article in the L.A. Daily News said he had “immense political clout.” Brokaw has politics in the family, with son Brian Brokaw a political campaign consultant – he managed Kamala Harris’ successful campaign for attorney general. Brokaw’s government interest was inspired by Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, who taught a college class that Brokaw attended.
Darius Anderson’s lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, has blue-chip clients, and lots of them, but in recent years Anderson has branched out his operations to include investments, real estate, a transit-related project, land development, even newspaper publishing in Santa Rosa. Anderson served billionaire Ron Burkle as chief of staff in The Yucaipa Companies, and the two have remained in touch over the years. Anderson played a role in negotiations involving the Sacramento sports arena, a project that drew Burkle’s interest and participation. Anderson’s meteoric rise in Sacramento’s lobbying world drew the admiration and envy of colleagues, but Anderson pressed on, building a client list that includes health care, local government, high-tech, satellite television, pharmaceuticals and much more. He drew fire when his lobbying firm paid a $500,000 fine to settle a New York state investigation involving pension fund investments. Not long after, the FPPC appointed him to an advisory panel on ethics. As always, Sacramento is a mixed bag.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is one of the state’s — and nation’s — most powerful environmental protection groups, and Ann Notthoff is the NRDC’s well-known head of California advocacy. The NRDC is a kind of hatchery for major government environmental regulators — the ARB’s Mary Nichols is an NRDC alumnus, for example — and often takes the lead in litigation. Notthoff, for her part, seems to be everywhere at once and is on everyone’s list of environmental warriors. Regardless of the major issue, from species protections to greenhouse gases — Notthoff has figured somewhere near the center of every fray – and sits at the table when the final negotiations play out. The issues are too numerous to list here, but she sponsored legislation that set up the first network of marine reserves in the nation and later worked to curb carbon emissions from automobiles. The NRDC also figured in the negotiations that created the system of cap-and-trade auctions that have been put into place to curb carbon emissions.
Paula Treat is impressive as a lobbyist, but there’s a lot more going on here. She’s been in the game for 38 years and was one of the first women to own a contract lobby business. A well-known fixture in the Capitol, she is viewed as an advisor by legislators, bureaucrats and stakeholders, and she’s got friends on both sides of the aisle. These days she is widely considered a go-to lobbyist on tribal gaming issues, not only for her principal client, Pechanga, but also because she knows, minute by minute, what everybody else is up to. And here’s a little-known fact: She can whistle like a demon. At a post-mortem of the election last year, all but one of the 38 newly elected lawmakers came to visit and were noisily mingling. Treat let out a piercing whistle that was heard all the way to J Street, and the freshmen instantly came to the center of the room and waited attentively. Not bad.
49.Lyn “Nay” Valbuena
Lyn Valbuena is the veteran chair of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, or TASIN, which represents nearly a dozen federally recognized tribes and is perhaps the best known of California’s tribal associations that advocate on behalf of their tribes’ interests in the Capitol and before the general public. Valbuena has been with TASIN for 18 years, and during that time the issues confronting the tribes have changed – and yet stayed the same. TASIN has both gaming and non-gaming members, so Valbuena deals with gaming issues, as well as social, tribal sovereignty, economic development and cultural issues as well, to list just a few. Dominating the agenda this year, however, is online gaming, and TASIN is all but certain to be in the center of the discussions. Valbuena is a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and also serves with the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington.
Bev Hansen successfully made the transition from legislating to advocacy, no easy feat and one that others have tried to duplicate with mixed results. On its face, it’s a good move, using the contacts and knowledge of the Capitol’s inner world to push the legislative interests of clients. In reality, it is a lot harder than it sounds. But Hansen made it look easy. A moderate Republican, she served three terms in the Assembly and then decided not to run again after Democrat-engineered redistricting carved up her district into hostile ground. She tried for a Senate seat in a 1993 special election, but she lost in the primary. But everything worked out: Hansen went into advocacy, and she’s now a partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller, a blue-chip, heavyweight lobbying firm with clients that include health services, bankers, gaming interests, truckers, labor, even the San Diego County Water Authority and AFSCME. Quite a lineup.
Just when you think the Silicon Valley is politically tone deaf — a thought that often strikes people in Sacramento — you come across a pro who clearly knows the Capitol. For more than 15 years, Carl Guardino has headed the trade association known as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents more than 300 of Silicon Valley’s most important companies. Before the SVLG, Guardino was an executive at HP, and he cut his political teeth in the Capitol on the staff of former Assemblyman Rusty Areias, then a Los Banos Democrat and now a major player at California Strategies. Former Gov. Arnold Schwazenegger, a Republican, put Guardino on the California Transportation Commission, one of the most important bodies in the state that holds sway over billions of dollars in funding. Guardino will be there until 2015, and our guess is he’ll be reappointed then if he wants the job. Guardino’s latest chore: He played a leading role in putting together Gov. Brown’s trade trip to China.
Not to disparage Democratic Party Chair John Burton’s managerial skills, but it seems to us – and many others — that Shawnda Westly actually manages the party’s apparatus day-to-day, a major undertaking given the Democrats’ numbers, general restlessness and traditional squabbling. The well-organized Westly – she set up her own consulting firm in 2005 – also worked six years for the California Professional Firefighters, served as a senior adviser to S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Consumer Attorneys of California, a powerful Democratic political force, and handled various union-funded independent expenditure committees. Westly, a new mother, is in the right job at the right time at the apex of the state Democrats’ operations. The Dems have two-thirds majorities in both houses, virtually all the statewide offices and a 14-point lead in voter registration. The state is solidly blue, and Westly’s goal is to keep it that way. One amazing fact: How did someone raised in Orange County become such a committed, classic Democrat?
Since Matthew Cate once ran the state prison system, a sprawling bureaucracy with problems aplenty, it may have seemed that serving as the executive director of the California State Association of Counties would be a walk in the park. Uh, no. The counties have been involved in hot-button issues over the years, most of them relating to the state budget or Sacramento’s not-so-veiled efforts to exert control. The latest problem is realignment, which includes the transfer of thousands of prison inmates to county custody, as demanded by Gov. Brown. The counties are supposed to be compensated for taking over the prisoners, of course, but so far, it hasn’t worked out that way. So Cate is the counties’ point man in the talks with the state — a perfect fit. For Cate, he’s dealing with an issue that he handled from the state’s perspective when he was at Corrections. He’s an expert on prison inmates, and he’s becoming an expert on the counties’ needs.
The Service Employees International Union is a pervasive force in California politics – it represents some 700,000 workers, everybody from janitors to university employees to state workers. And the key instrument of SEIU’s political operation is Terry Brennand, the union’s Senior Government Relations Manager. That means he deals with legislation targeting union issues, countering anti-labor groups’ positions and marshaling the forces when ballot battles loom. On the front burner now are battles over public pension reforms, driven by complaints about pension spiking and lavish benefits. Pension costs have become a regular concern, not only in the Capitol but in cities facing bankruptcy. Brennand is a perfect fit for this combat: He’s a strategist with a keen eye and a sharp elbow, and he carries a clear perception of the enemy. He also knows how to negotiate a deal – a treasured commodity in the Capitol – and he doesn’t shrink from a fight, which is good because SEIU seems to be in a lot of them.
David Quintana was instrumental in building the California Tribal Business Alliance into a Capitol political force, and the Alliance clearly remains a potent group in the high-stakes political battles over casino and online gaming – battles that seem to resume every year. Quintana, an attorney with a quick eye for detail and the implications of legislation, is a solid negotiator. If there’s any issue that needs deft negotiating, it’s online gaming and that talent has helped cement the Alliance together. So has the knowledge that online gaming is coming to California and the Alliance needs to be aggressively represented at the table in the Capitol when the final agreement is being put together. A lot of money is at stake, and the Alliance, which only represents gaming tribes, will have to be there. Quintana will make sure they are.
If there’s one person whose name always comes up when you talking about experts in business regulation, it’s Dorothy Rothrock. She is the VP of government relations at the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. That means her task is to protect businesses from what she says are unnecessary regulations, tax increases and costly workplace changes. That’s a full plate in a Capitol dominated by Democratic supermajorities in both houses, but Rothrock wages an effective fight, day in and day out. She testifies at hearings, appears on TV and radio and pens op-eds to get her message out. She also is brisk, friendly and aggressive at the same time, a combination that helps her get the point across. She’s lost some and won some but, to steal a cliché, always shows up for the fight. She and her boss, CMTA President Jack Stewart, represent the heft of some 30,000 companies and 1.5 million employees. Numbers count in the Capitol and those are big numbers.
Lobbyist John Latimer founded Capitol Advocacy 14 years ago and the client list now includes California retailers, the pharmaceutical coalition, big tobacco and more. A former Capitol staffer who spent a decade in the building, Latimer tried a 1998 run for an Assembly seat, but got whacked in the primary. That may have been a blessing in disguise, however, because a year later he set up his own lobbying shop and the rest, as they say, is history. When he was in the Capitol, he served as a top consultant to key committees, including Assembly Appropriations, Assembly Governmental Organization and Assembly Transportation Committee, as well as chief of staff to a member. His issues included tax policy, infrastructure finance, alcoholic beverage policy, environmental regulation, healthcare and utility de-regulation. Capitol Advocacy handles most of those issues, and more, so his years spent in the Legislature proved valuable, indeed.
40. V. John White
V. John White is the veteran executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and a lobbyist for a number of alternative-energy companies, which means he not only spreads the gospel for solar power and conservation, but also serves as an advocate for their use. White – “V. John” in the Capitol – is a walking encyclopedia of all things energy related. If the issue is energy, “V. John” either created it, knows about it, has something to do with it or is lobbying for or against it. The demand for White’s expertise can only increase exponentially because of increasing debates over fossil fuels, concerns about climate change, the search for ever-cleaner alternative energy sources, the increasing public support for alternative energy, and the like. It’s a billion-dollar landscape and it seems to be getting larger. And while nobody has ever tracked this, our guess is that V. John has the most frequent flyer miles of anyone in Sacramento lobbying community.
The question of tribal gaming has been a public policy debate in California for a generation, but there is little doubt that over time, public acceptance of tribal gaming has increased. One reason for that change is Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, who was on the ground floor of making tribal gaming acceptable to the public: He supported critical ballot propositions and he put the issue front and center in the Capitol. The discussion is not limited to reservation gaming: The decision by lawmakers to approve an off-reservation casino near Madera may serve as a template for other off-reservation facilities in at least three locations across California. Macarro has been described as a successor to the mantle of Richard Milanovich, the legendary chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died last year. As negotiations heat up this year and next over online gaming, the pressures on Macarro are all but certain to increase.
Robert Ross came to California 20 years ago to serve as the director of San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency. Today, he’s involved in healthcare across the state as a member of the board of the California Health Benefit Exchange. An M.D. who has worked on a variety of public health projects in California and nationwide, Ross’ expertise stems from his experience. Between his leadership in establishing one of the first state health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and his crucial role as president and CEO of the California Endowment, Ross is at a critical place in defining health issues in California. His practical experience isn’t the only factor bolstering Ross’ healthcare credentials: He grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx and is a forceful advocate to address social issues relating to health, such as racial, economic and gender disparities in access to care.
Greg Campbell has been a legislative staffer for more than 20 years, and his current gig is at the top of the heap – chief of staff to Assembly Speaker John Pérez. The youthful Campbell knows the terrain — he’s about 40 and looks younger – and has worked in various leadership capacities through four speakerships and has become an institutional part of the Assembly’s power structure. The chief of staff is part political operative, part employee manager, part soother of the caucus and part communications strategist, characteristics that have to be coupled with solid social skills. It also helps to have a crystal ball: Having a sense when dormant issues are ready to draw public attention is indispensable. He’s back on the job after recuperating from major surgery. Gov. Brown had called and asked if there was anything he could do. Ever the political staffer, Campbell said yes, sign the speaker’s bill to expand Medi-Cal coverage. “I’m doing great because I have health insurance,” he told the governor.
One reason why the California electorate, despite the early predictions of pundits, approved Gov. Brown’s effort to raise taxes in Proposition 30 is Lou Paulson, who has run the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters for the past nine years. Paulson chaired the labor coalition, the Alliance for a Better California, that had been formed to take out Proposition 32, which sought to cripple the unions’ ability to raise money. Proposition 32 was defeated as labor and its allies turned out in force, and that helped Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised money through temporary tax hikes to keep the government afloat. It’s the kind of labor-business hardball politics common in Sacramento, and the CPF seems to be in most of the battles. One of CPF’s strengths is that almost everybody – the public, the lawmakers, the kids in school – love firefighters. But that seems to evaporate each year at budget time when politicians look for places to cut, and that’s when CPF starts girding for battle.
In L.A., where Democrats and labor rule, Eric C. Bauman is a power to be reckoned with. He’s in his sixth term as chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, vice-chair of the state Democratic Party and head of the L.A. office of the Speaker’s Office of Member Services, which mounts political operations and which answers to Assembly Speaker John Pérez. Bauman also is a senior adviser to Pérez, who rose to political power by coming up through the ranks of organized labor in Los Angeles. All these connections and positions mean that Bauman is the go-to person for Democratic issues in sprawling L.A. County, the state’s largest with more than a fourth of all California voters. Bauman’s canny political instincts, combined with what many in L.A. say is an intimidating manner, has scored numerous successes, although some think the Dems and labor in L.A. stumbled in the spring, when internal divisions surfaced during the race for mayor between Democrats Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, divisions that lingered through the election.
Phil Isenberg, a distinguished smarty pants – note, we said “distinguished” and not “elderly” – invariably is at the center of the hot issue of the day, and this time it’s water. He is the chair of the Delta Stewardship Council which, among other things, has enormous influence on the latest great water policy issue: Will the state go forward with a $24.5 billion plan to build huge tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move more Northern California water to the south? Getting more headed south is not a new idea (see SB 200, 1982), but little has changed in the urgency of the issue: A lot is riding on the answer. A former mayor of Sacramento, a former Assembly member and top lieutenant to then-Speaker Willie Brown, a former lobbyist, as well as devoted art lover and patron, Isenberg is as much Renaissance Man as political player, and seems pleased with both roles.
Barry Broad, an attorney and committed labor advocate with wide influence, is intriguing on a number of levels. First, he’s a lobbyist with long experience in the Capitol’s wars, representing such heavy hitters as the Teamsters Public Affairs Council, the Jockey Guild and the Unite Here International Union. Second, the word “Teamster” may conjure up visions of a scrappy striker walking a picket line – and Broad may well have done that – but in appearance, he resembles more a canny company executive deep in Human Resources. Third, he’s the Capitol’s answer to Ian Fleming: He’s an adventure-spy novelist of solid talent, and a friend of ours who admires his work says he writes a good read indeed. That makes him an object of admiration to reporters – and it’s not easy to win kudos from newsies hunting the dark side of everything and everyone.
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg’s chief of staff is Kathy Dresslar, which means she serves at the core of the upper house’s administrative level. She coordinates policy, handles hiring and firing, and makes sure the Leader’s goals are successfully – hopefully — turned into action. Her task is part political, part administrative and part policy, and day to day her work activity probably is akin to herding cats. She was a senior advocate for the Children’s Policy Institute, a legislator and chief of staff in the Assembly and former chief of staff to S.F. Sen. Mark Leno. One aspect of Capitol life clearly has made her task more difficult: The Senate in recent years has lost a cadre of talented staff, including health czar David Panush who went to the office implementing the Affordable Care Act, and Brian Kelly, who handled myriad chores in the Senate and who now handles Transportation, with authority over the high-speed rail program, among other chores.
The California Labor Federation is affiliated with some 1,200 unions representing 2.1 million workers, and the Labor Fed’s legislative director is Angie Wei, who is battling for workers’ interests on so many fronts that it’s often hard to keep track. But if there’s a major union fight anywhere in the state, the chances are that Wei is somewhere close by, and a more accurate description of “legislative director” is probably “crusader.” Despite the Labor Fed’s size, Wei and her allies are really underdogs, at least financially, because anti-labor big-business interests, overall, engage in far greater political spending than labor. But labor’s ability to call out the foot soldiers in elections helps even things out, as does pushing for labor-friendly legislation in the Capitol among supportive Democrats. Those supporters usually – but not always – include Gov. Brown, there are assorted stresses within the labor movement. And that’s where Wei comes in. She also serves as chair of the California Commission on Health, Safety and Workers Compensation.
Not surprisingly, this list is heavy with organized labor’s top players – a category that includes Scott Wetch. Wetch of Carter Wetch and Associates, is an aggressive, go-to person for the pipe trades and electrical workers unions, among a host of other clients. His unions have gone contrary to many other powerful labor groups on key issues like the implementation of the state’s greenhouse gas law, and his is not a household name in the state. But in the Capitol, where he served for 12 years in both houses, Wetch was a key aide to top figures, including David Roberti, Jack Scott and Mike Thompson, and was consultant for several committees, including Senate Housing and Assembly Insurance. He gained wide attention two years ago for winning what Capitol Weekly called “one of the oddest most passionate political fights” in which he spearheaded a bill over the opposition of the nurses to allow school employees to administer medication to students caught in epileptic seizures.
Communications strategist Donna Lucas of Lucas Public Affairs worked as a campaign press aide and learned the insides of the Capitol during the Deukmejian administration. She learned her lessons well: She has developed into a major communications force and is a go-to person for companies and people — State Fund, Chevron, Maria Shriver (Lucas was Shriver’s chief of staff), assorted businesses, health care issues, etc. — looking for communications advice in the Byzantine world of Capitol politics. She’s also connected: Her brother is top Senate staffer Kip Lipper, a gatekeeper for major environmental legislation in the Capitol, and her husband is Greg Lucas, the former Sacramento bureau chief of the San Francisco Chronicle and perhaps the best-sourced newsie in the Capitol. Greg, by the way, publishes “California’s Capitol,” is a contributing editor to Capitol Weekly and hosts our “Politics on Tap” TV show. When we created Open California, a public benefit corporation to publish Capitol Weekly, we needed a board of directors — she was our first call.
When the California Transportation Agency was reorganized earlier this summer, Brian Kelly was named the new Secretary of Transportation. No surprise: He had been serving on an interim basis and the appointment was widely expected. Kelly has been an influential player in the Capitol for years, well known in the Senate as a go-to person with a broad policy portfolio. Kelly was fresh out of college when he began working in the Capitol in 1994 for the Democratic Caucus. He was only there a year before he moved along to work as a consultant and negotiator for the next four democratic Senate leaders. He didn’t leave the Legislature until 2012, when he became undersecretary and then quickly acting secretary of what was, prior to the reorganization, the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency. At just 44, Kelly has already made the most of his nearly 20 years working in the Capitol and risen through the ranks— and the top 100 list — at a rapid speed.
Rex Frazier, a former top lawyer at the Department of Insurance, is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, a trade group that represents only a handful of insurers, but they include heavy hitters – including as State Farm, Allstate, Mercury and Farmers. Frazier is a lawyer by training, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law by inclination, and a political junkie by temperament. His job is to make sure that PIFC protects its own, usually by battling any number of consumer groups fighting to whack his companies. He does that by backing candidates who are helpful, or at least not hostile, to his industry. In today’s world of Democratic supermajorities, that also means that Frazier takes careful aim at the moderates – a target-rich environment. He moves a lot of money around at election time, and while he’s not often quoted in news accounts, he is well-known in the Capitol as a first-tier player.
Rick Claussen, a principal in the newly formed Redwood Pacific political consulting firm, is a veteran strategist with more than 30 years in the business who handles not only California campaigns but does national chores as well. Claussen, who leans Republican, doesn’t do candidates, he does ballot measures. He successfully managed the Proposition 11 campaign that created California’s first independent commission to draw legislative political boundaries. Two years later in 2010, he did the same thing to expand the commission’s authority to include congressional districts. That commish now is being viewed as a national model. Claussen’s successes included the defeat of Proposition 24, which would have halted a $1.4 billion business tax break, and the passage of Proposition 26, which made it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes and fees. Redwood Pacific is a joining of the firms of the Ginsberg-McLear Group and Goddard Claussen, and includes Aaron McLear, press secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd is the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. WSPA’s members are a “who’s who” of Big Oil, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and many more, and Reheis-Boyd has been the point person for the industry’s public response to AB32 and, more recently, fracking. WSPA is behind efforts to expand the use of fracking – hydraulic fracturing — to exploit the Monterey Shale Formation, a deposit below the San Joaquin Valley which is estimated to contain about two-thirds of the United States’s total shale oil reserves – over 15 billion barrels. With the Legislature and the Governor sending smoke signals of support, the fight over fracking is heating up and Reheis-Boyd is making sure WSPA’s members are well-represented at the Capitol. According to the secretary of state, WSPA spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group – just over $1 million in the first quarter and nearly $1.29 million in the second, a total of $2.3 million.
Rob Lapsley is the president of the California Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan pro-business group that is much smaller than the Chamber of Commerce but with similar goals. The Roundtable, comprised of senior executives from around the state, seeks a better business climate and includes improvements in infrastructure and public education as a way to get there. The group also favors easing regulations and a tax overhaul – common themes of most business groups – but the Roundtable also has a strong research component, in part to serve as a basis for any legislation it may support, and seems to eschew the marketing rhetoric of “job killer bills” so favored by the Chamber – and others. Lapsley, a former vice president of the Chamber, ran JobsPac, the Chamber’s powerful political arm and independent expenditure committee. Lapsley, an Air Force veteran, earlier served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Bill Jones.
There are a few staffers in the Capitol who wield enormous influence over their policy specialty, and Kip Lipper is one of them. He is the environmental policy guru for the Senate, and every — and we mean every — major piece of environmental legislation has his fingerprints, and many of the minor ones, too. Lipper was a long-time aide to former Sen. Byron Sher, a deal-cutting icon to environmentalists. For the past year, Lipper has cast a careful eye on attempts to ease CEQA, and he’s in a perpetual struggle to fight the wholesale erosion of the powers of environmental regulatory bodies or attempts to streamline statutes in order to give polluters and developers a pass. He analyzes legislation, brokers agreements, serves as the Senate’s environmental hardball player and does myriad chores. In the Capitol, when he’s signed off on a bill, it’s been “Lipperized,” a term that evokes equal measures of fear and respect, depending on who’s using it.
Dave Low, a UC Berkeley grad in business administration, is on just about everybody’s list of Top 100 names, and we agree. Low has been at the California School Employees Association for 32 years and rose through the ranks to become executive director. He’s done it all: union organizing, local campaigns in San Francisco and San Mateo, Personnel Board hearings, grievances, arbitration, contracts, bargaining, and of course union rep and union steward. In addition to staff management, his interests include legislative and political issues for CSEA, which represents over 200,000 classified employees in California’s public schools, community colleges and peace officers in the California State Universities. He’s also chairman of Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security, which has taken the lead in the fight against rolling back public pensions. By the way, CSEA is the largest union of school classified employees in the United States.
21. Willie Pelote Sr.
AFSCME, like most of organized labor, got a friend in the governor’s office for the first time in years when Jerry Brown was elected and Willie Pelote intends to make the most of it. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees parted ways with Brown over his attempt to abolish redevelopment agencies, but nobody can bat a thousand all the time and on virtually every other major issue, AFSCME is in sync with the governor. Pelote’s Capitol savvy – years ago he worked as a sergeant at arms in the building – is paying dividends now. The straight-talking Pelote’s vigorous and unabashed support for his public-employee members has drawn fierce fire from Republicans and pension-cutters over the years, but AFSCME’s fiscal clout is even more fierce — by one estimate, the union coalition has spent more than $23.6 million on political causes in the past decade. Pension and health-care security are at the top of AFSCME’s list.
California has its share of billionaires and most of them aren’t on this list — and rightly, too. But Steyer, a hedge-fund wizard from Stanford with a deep political gene and passion for environmental protection, is making waves. As we go to press, the rumor is that he will push for an oil-extraction fee in legislation with supermajority support. He is rumored to want to run for governor or U.S. Senate, and already has successfully handled two ballot-initiatives – winning one, Proposition 39, to close a $1 billion corporate tax break, while beating back another, Proposition 23 of 2010, which would have suspended the state’s landmark law to curb greenhouse emissions. His street chops have caught the eye of California politics watchers and they now are watching him closely. And not just in California: Steyer recently headed to D.C., where he announced his opposition to the Keystone XL project and said he’ll financially support Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s run for governor in Virginia this year.
A governor has hundreds — thousands — of appointments to the state bureaucracy, boards, commissions, advisory panels, etc., and the person at the heart of the whole process is Mona Pasquil, who vets the appointees and makes recommendations on their worthiness for appointive office, among other chores. It’s a vital gig in any administration, since a miscue here can lead to major problems later on. Pasquil, who was John Kerry’s political director during his 2004 presidential bid and a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008, knows the ropes. She was former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi’s chief of staff, and when Garamendi left to run for Congress, Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Pasquil lieutenant governor, pending the confirmation of Abel Maldonado. Pasquil, who in between various government jobs was a first-rate political fundraiser, was California’s first Asian lieutenant governor and that office’s first woman. Pretty heavy resume for the appointments secretary.
In the hyperpartisan world of the Capitol, one might think that a lobbyist’s political affiliation would be a deciding factor. It’s not necessarily so. Effectiveness trumps the party label, getting things done trumps ideology. Kevin Sloat’s client list includes such names as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Verizon, Platinum Advisors, McKesson, Black & Decker, Cisco Systems and others. Sloat’s firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen, is a major lobbying force, with close ties to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson but which has expanded far beyond that. Sloat has worked on both sides of the aisle in the legislative and executive branches and he knows where the bodies are buried. He may have buried a few of them. And Sloat’s partners – Maureen Higgins and Kelly Jensen – clearly belong on this list as well, but first we’ll have to kick Kevin off to make enough room.
We said once that veteran lobbyist Aaron Read of Aaron Read & Associates is one of those advocates who seems to be everywhere with a client list that seems to include everybody but Capitol Weekly — and we probably couldn’t afford him anyway. That’s still true. Read has been lobbying the in the Capitol since Ronald Reagan was governor, then formed his own firm in 1978. His clients have stuck with him a long time, too. In addition to a marketing and information section, his client list includes doctors, police, local government, utilities (such as AT&T), pharmacists, firefighters, ranch owners and casinos, among others. His office, with Randy Perry in the lead, also puts out an election analysis for his clients that is first-rate — a concise, easy read that covers a lot of ground, down to numerous local races. He did one last November, and hopefully he’ll do one next time around. Maybe we can get on the subscription list.
As the chief executive of the 37,000-member California Medical Association, Dustin Corcoran heads the physicians’ principal state political arm, fighting for the docs on any number of fronts that include Medi-Cal reimbursements, corporate medicine and turf fights over scope of practice — just to name a few. It’s been a busy year for the doctors, and it’s about to get a lot busier, starting with a number of bills and a potential ballot initiative to raise the ceiling on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases. That’s a perennial, high-dollar fight in Sacramento that pits attorneys against doctors and insurers. Corcoran joined the CMA in 1998 and rose through the ranks, mentored by the late Steve Thompson, a popular and effective Capitol lobbyist. Corcoran served on the association’s PAC to boost membership and was part of the lobbying team with Thompson. After some internal wrangling, Corcoran became CEO in 2010.
Gale Kaufman, who founded her political strategy firm in the 1980s, is the Democrats’ No. 1 ballot measure warrior in California and the go-to person for the California Teachers Association’s ballot fights – of which there are many. She was the principle architect behind the defeat of Proposition 32, a business- and Republican-backed effort to block unions’ ability to raise campaign cash. That campaign was intertwined with the governor’s Proposition 30 to raise income and sales taxes to generate money for schools and fill a budget hole. That effort, headed by veteran Brown strategist Ace Smith, was approved, at least in part because of the fierce No on 32 campaign that Kaufman put together. Kaufman has handled some six dozen campaigns, including the destruction of the core of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot plans – a feat that earned her the title of Campaign Manager of the Year from a group of international political consultants. Her specialty is protecting labor from corporations – hence her lead role in defeating Proposition 32.
Art Pulaski, who joined a union as a teen-age meat cutter, has headed the California Labor Federation for 17 years, and before that he was the top executive at the San Mateo Labor Council for 12 years. As head of the California Labor Federation, Pulaski helps shape the labor movement through his organization that represents more than 2.1 million workers in 1,200 unions. The Labor Fed is a sort of umbrella group, not a union, but it has the ability to organize action, staff phone banks, walk precincts, call statewide meetings and keep the troops focused. As executive secretary treasurer and chief officer of the Labor Fed, Pulaski is a power to be dealt with by any governor – and Brown’s no exception. Brown’s support among labor is strong, in part because there are no heavy hitters out there on the horizon who would be better for organized labor than Brown. But Brown said a governor sometimes needs to “knock heads,” and so far Pulaski’s forces appear relatively content.
At first blush, accountants and numbers crunchers wouldn’t be on this list, but state’s Auditor Elaine Howle is different: She keeps a close eye on government operations. What she does is particularly important to the parsimonious governor, who has publicly described himself as “tight with a buck.” Brown doesn’t want to be embarrassed by fiscal messes, as he was with the state Parks and Recreation Department, which, it turned out, had been hoarding millions of dollars instead of spending them on parks, even during a period of closures. Howle, with voter approval, took the lead in setting up the independent commission that ultimately created the new Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and Congressional districts for last year’s elections. That put Howle at the center of the hyper-partisan political disputes over redistricting – an unusual position for someone accustomed to audits, performance reports and fiscal reviews. But she carried it off, relying in part on her political experience answering to the demands of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
Allan Zaremberg is something of a survivor. President of the California Chamber of Commerce, Zaremberg, a lawyer and a protégé of former Gov. George Deukmejian, has deep Republican roots. But he has demonstrated an ability to curry favor from governors of whatever political stripe, which invariably places the Chamber near the top of the political pecking order. An ally of Pete Wilson, Zaremberg later become just as close – perhaps closer – to former Gov. Gray Davis, who was booted in the 2003 recall. Then, Zaremberg deftly worked the incoming Schwarzenegger administration until, as we noted last year, the Chamber became a de facto arm of the governor’s office. Jerry Brown is in power now and Zaremberg has his work cut out for him. One reason why Zaremberg succeeds is that he knows how to get close to new governors and hopes to bridge partisan lines. But that’s not easy for a business advocacy group that offers phrases like “no-taxes” and “job killer bills” as its principal positions.
The Public Utilities Commission, which regulates California’s huge investor-owned utilities, often takes criticism and this year was no exception, starting with its handing of penalties against PG&E for the San Bruno gas explosion. But PUC leader Michael Peevey emerged relatively unscathed and here’s why: He knows what he’s doing, he used to run a big utility himself and Wall Street likes him. When Brown was considering dropping Peevey as president, Wall Street got so nervous that Brown held back. Why? Because the PUC regulates investor-owned utilities and there were fears that Brown, seen by those don’t know him as an anti-business radical, was going to dismantle the PUC. It didn’t happen and Peevey is still there, appointed or reappointed by two governors and enjoying the confidence of the utilities as well as the financial community – no mean feat. Messing with Peevey could cause problems for Brown in the Capitol, too: Peevey’s wife is Democratic Sen. Carol Liu, a Democrat in La Canada Flintridge.
If there’s anybody who deserves the thanks of taxpayers, it’s Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. The LAO examines the budget line by line and cuts through the smoke and mirrors. To see what we mean, check out its discussion of the Brown administration’s use of accrual accounting. The LAO analyzes the dollar costs of state labor contracts, ballot initiatives, education and social programs, tax hikes and cuts, regulatory schemes, state-local power shifts – you name it. The LAO staff prize being balanced (The joke goes that the first words of a baby with LAO parents are ‘’on the other hand…”). But the LAO’s reports are readable and quotable – a rarity in Sacramento – and the people who write them actually answer the phone and will even talk on the record with a reporter (OMG!) The LAO is hired by the Legislature – which really means by the majority party – but even in the hyper-political, overheated atmosphere of the Capitol, there is scant complaining about Taylor and his staff from either side of the aisle.
9.Maria Elena Durazo
When Maria Elena Durazo took over as head of the L.A. County Labor Federation in 2006, nobody was quite sure how long she’d be around. She came in on an interim basis in the wake of the death of her husband, Miguel Contreras, who rose from a San Joaquin crop worker to build a powerful labor organization in the state’s most populous county. A predecessor, Martin Ludlow, tripped in a financial scandal and forced out, so her transition period was difficult. In L.A., the “Fed” has the power to make and break candidates — or at least influence them at campaign time. The umbrella group has served as a hatchery for powerful political leaders – including the current and former Assembly speaker. Every L.A. Democrat in the Legislature has come to terms with the Fed, a process that shows no signs of changing. Durazo also serves as executive vice president of the governing executive council of the national AFL-CIO and as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Jim Earp wears two hats and both are big. One, for the past six years, he has sat on the California Transportation Commission, which decides major road projects in California and sets the priority schedule to pay for them; Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him originally, Gov. Brown reappointed him. Two, he heads the Alliance for Jobs, which represents 1,700 construction companies and 50,000 unionized workers. The Alliance targets lots of jobs and big projects, which translates into a lot of dough and political clout. At a time when the state appears moving toward a major Delta tunneling project and high-speed rail, the Alliance becomes an even more significant player. The Alliance also has pushed for bond financing for an array of infrastructure projects, and his group played a major role in the big-dollar discussions over air-quality rules for diesel equipment. The 2014 water projects bond is likely to be rewritten before it gets to the ballot, and the Alliance is sure to be involved along the way.
Mary Nichols has been the face of environmental regulation for so long, she’s a California institution. She is the chair of the state Air Resources Board, the premier air-quality regulator whose decisions serve as a model for much of the country, including the highly industrialized, congested Northeast. Nichols’ role, in our view, makes her the most influential air-quality regulator in the nation. Her environmental and air-quality credentials go way back. An environmental lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, she worked for Brown back in the old days during his initial terms as governor as chair of the ARB, worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger as ARB chair, worked for Gray Davis as Resources Secretary and now is working for Brown as – you guessed it – ARB chair. Nichols is accustomed to attention, and that’s good because the world is watching California’s new cap-and-trade auctions, which are administered by the ARB.
Since we started doing this list some years ago, the only difference with Bill Devine is that he keeps moving up. Each year, AT&T is a huge player – the single, largest corporate player, in fact — in the Capitol and each year Bill Devine, AT&T’s chief lobbyist, makes sure it stays that way. So far, it has, and Devine is a big reason why. No single corporation spends more – an estimated $14,000 a day since 2005 — trying to influence the Capitol than AT&T. So victories are common, defeats are rare. Whether the issue involves deregulation of telephone service, VoIP, broadband or wireless, AT&T invariably is in the midst of the fight. And there’s its annual Pebble Beach golf tournament that typically raises $1 million for Democrats. And since Democrats now have supermajorities in both houses and are likely to keep their edge, dealing with them will continue to be Devine’s top legislative priority. Now, if Capitol Weekly could get its AT&T high-speed DSL service fixed, we’d all be happy.
Like Dooley, Morgenstern is experienced working under Brown, serving during Brown’s first terms as governor in the 1970s and 80s as director of the Department of Personnel Administration (Remember that name? Now it’s called Human Resources.) Morgenstern came back to serve as DPA director for Gray Davis’ entire governorship. Since the DPA represents the administration in bargaining with state employee unions, Morgenstern might not seem a good fit. In fact, in the world of labor, Morgenstern is the real deal. A graduate of Hunter College in New York, which he attended on the G.I. Bill, Morgenstern during the late 50s worked for the New York City welfare department, where he became a strike captain. He later was a shop steward at the East Harlem Welfare Center and rose through the union ranks to become president of the Social Service Employees Union. Under Brown, Morgenstern heads an agency of 14,000 employees with a $26 billion cumulative budget and he was instrumental in a $16 billion workers compensation insurance overhaul.
Diana Dooley is the Health and Human Services Secretary and she’s also the chair of the California Health Benefit Exchange, which means she will be at the center of decision – making relating to health care policy and finances as the Affordable Care Act gets under way. Dooley, who will have a say in the administration of a multibillion-dollar marketplace, has a background in health care issues and politics, and she may be exactly the right person for the job at a time when the future of health care is so uncertain. Brown’s first appointment as governor, Dooley headed the California Children’s Hospital Association and prior to that she was general counsel and vice president of the Children’s Hospital near Fresno. She served Brown during his first years as governor, too, as legislative secretary and special assistant from 1975 to 1983. But prior to her appointment in 2010, Dooley was little known to the wider public, although many in health care community had predicted her appointment weeks before.
Nancy McFadden, executive secretary and chief of staff to Gov. Brown, is the administrative leader of the “Horseshoe” – the governor’s inner Capitol sanctum – who stands at the intersection of policy and politics. God only knows what the Horseshoe’s flow chart looks like, but this much is clear: Nothing much happens unless McFadden signs off on it. McFadden’s political chops include her service as a top strategist for PG&E and she’s had roles in an around the Capitol for years. Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but they agree on this: McFadden has one of sharpest political minds in the Capitol. She also has a lot of help: Dana Williamson, who came to the Horseshoe after a stint as the PG&E public affairs chief, runs much of the day-to-day, which means she has a lot of clout and administrative savvy, but doesn’t get a lot of public credit. That’s changing, however, since the word is that she’s up for a cabinet-level appointment.
2. Joe Nuñez
Joe Nuñez, as executive director of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, represents the single most influential political entity in the state. Nunez, who had been the CTA’s director of government relations, was named executive director in June and runs a staff of 435. But whatever his title, Nunez’s function is the same: to spread the CTA’s gospel of labor protection and educational quality among California’s elected officials, and doing that means using money, cajolery and judicious arm-twisting. Nunez is an expert at all three. In fact, he’s so good that the vast Capitol Weekly staff suggested that Nunez be No. 1 on this year’s list and that Anne Gust Brown should drop to No. 2. But friends rolled their eyes and chortled derisively at the notion. The consensus was that Nunez is a big shot, but Anne Gust Brown is a bigger shot. So Joe, as we said earlier, you’re the Avis Rent-a-Car of Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 list, which means you’re still an honorable No. 2 – at least for now.
1. Anne Gust Brown
Anne Gust Brown is the governor’s sounding board, wife, special adviser, political partner, protector, campaign strategist, soul mate and general factotum — quite a combination. Jerry Brown’s improbable return to high statewide office as attorney general and governor clearly has been due, at least in part, to his well-organized and politically savvy wife. Brown manages the state and she manages the state’s inquisitive, restless, still-ambitious, 75-year-old chief executive. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But this is a case where conventional wisdom actually may be true: At the attorney general’s office, she played a major role behind the scenes, getting involved in staffing and operational issues to a degree that surprised – and even angered – some colleagues, and there is no reason to believe she’s not performing a similar function for his governorship. A former executive at Gap, Inc., she’s got degrees from Stanford and the University of Michigan law school. She left the Gap in 2005 to help run Brown’s campaign for attorney general and were married after a whirlwind, 15-year courtship. They had met in 1990 with the help of mutual friends. At the time, Jerry Brown was chairman of the California Democratic Party and Anne represented him in a lawsuit for free, and the two started dating soon after. Ahh, true love. If Anne Gust Brown does, in fact, wield decisive influence over her husband, then she is playing a major role in a critical period of California’s history. Abolishing redevelopment agencies, crafting high-speed rail, realigning state-local authority, changing the prison system, changing environmental laws — you name it, and she’s probably involved in it.