When we put out our first Top 100 list, we wanted to give a mischievous, behind-the-scenes view of players in state politics that the public usually doesn’t see. We succeeded, we had fun.
“Lists like the one you are about to read are a lot like most hairpieces: They’re probably a bad idea, but they do get a lot of people talking,” we wrote in 2009.
Seven years later later, we’re still having fun – okay, not as much as before – but we think this list has value and is becoming something of an institution. At least, that’s what people tell us.
Some use it as a primer for new staffers. Some send it to clients. Some send it back to us with curt advice about where to put it. Some wonder if we don’t have anything better to do with our time. Some send us lists of names of people who should be on the list. Some use it to make political points. Some avoid it entirely.
Clearly, this list is subjective – but not completely so. And we’re working on methods to make it more objective. More about those later.
Finally, there’s this: For all those who were camping or hiking in the Sierra when they got phone calls from us seeking advice at weird hours, we say thanks. And a special thanks to Stockton artist Chris Shary, who produced those wonderful line drawings.
Now you have the Top 100 in your hands – and I’m leaving town, fast.
See you next year…
(Click on the name to see illustration)
1 Anne Gust Brown
We’re not quite sure what Anne Gust Brown really does, but one thing is certain: She has a profound influence on California policy and that’s why she’s No. 1 on our list. Her husband Jerry, 78, is mid-way through his fourth term as governor and he’s already the longest-serving governor in California history. His public approval ratings are high, the state is better managed than it has been in years and even many Republicans give him good reviews for his fiscal stewardship. That is due, at least in part, to Anne, who helps manage her husband’s time and priorities, and weighs in during policy debates. A former executive at The Gap, Anne also knows politics – she helped steer his campaign for attorney general, and she played a similar role in 2010 when he was elected governor for the third time. We’ve described her as a “strategist, a fundraiser, a manager, an organizer, a gatekeeper and the wife of a cerebral, restless, crotchety, Jesuit-trained governor.” That about sums it up. They first met in 1990, when Brown – in one of the odder fits of his career – headed the California Democratic Party. They were married 15 years later. Anne has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a law degree from the University of Michigan.
2 Nancy McFadden
The governor’s chief of staff is Nancy McFadden, who is at the very center of the Brown administration at the crossroads of politics and policy. McFadden has strong political chops, not only in Sacramento but in D.C. She was Al Gore’s deputy chief of staff, and served as a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, an unpopular Democrat who was recalled in 2003. McFadden, a former strategist for PG&E, wields authority over legislation and operations, which means she has some role in virtually everything that happens in the administration’s innermost circle, whether it’s personnel, policy or communications. Brown runs a tight ship, and McFadden is a big reason why.
3 Mary Nichols
Relatively few people have heard of Nancy McFadden outside of political circles. But that’s not true with Mary Nichols, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, the state’s powerful air-quality regulator. Nichols, easily the most visible of Brown’s top officials, is on the front line of the governor’s efforts to curb climate change — and both of them are good with that. A former attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nichols has served in Sacramento longer than many in the Capitol have been alive. She was a top environmental official during Brown’s first tour as governor 40 years ago, she held similar posts during the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis administrations, and now she’s back at the ARB, an agency that predates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is viewed as the nation’s most important smog fighter.
4 Diana Dooley
Diana Dooley was Jerry Brown’s first appointment when he was elected in 2010, and she remains California’s top health official. She chairs the board that administers California’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, and she serves in Brown’s cabinet as the secretary of health and human services. She’s also in for a tough year: Covered California’s staff, driven by demands from insurers, has urged a 13 percent increase in premiums, a significant hike that is all but certain to spark controversy. Dooley and Brown go way back: During his first two terms, Dooley served as legislative secretary and special assistant. She 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.
5 Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen is the director of the Department of Finance, which means he heads the unit that writes the governor’s budgets. In the state bureaucratic pecking order, Finance is at the top of the heap, because it is the agency that decides what the other agencies get. And we’re talking about a lot of dough: The 2016-17 state budget totals nearly $171 billion, much higher than the trifling $149 billion of runner-up New York (we’re talking state money only). Cohen is an LAO alum, leaving in 2010 for Finance, where he became the director in mid-2013. He is a master of detail, the go-to man for Jerry Brown on arcane budget questions at budget briefings, but of necessity he is also a master of The Big Picture. Cohen and the department’s press guy, H.D. Palmer, are the go-to’s if you want to understand the administration’s take on money. Finance also keeps track of the state’s current financial health, forecasts its future, tracks population growth and makes education enrollment projections.
6 Mac Taylor
The Legislative Analyst’s Office, or LAO, is one of the most important agencies in California. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor is the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser, and while political foes in the Capitol may not like each other, they do agree that the work of Taylor and his staff is indispensable. The state budget is as much a political document as a fiscal blueprint, and part of Taylor’s job is to make sure that lawmakers understand it. The LAO, which has been around since the 1940s and quickly established a national reputation, analyzes ballot propositions, tracks the state’s financial health, examines tax policies and their impact over time and pokes into any number of financial corners. The LAO’s staff members are listed on the agency’s web site, including telephone numbers, email addresses and policy specialties. How cool is that?
7 Joe Nuñez
Year in and year out, the California Teachers Association is one of the state’s most powerful political interests, representing more than 325,000 members statewide. CTA Executive Director Joe Nuñez – who spent two decades as a classroom teacher – has been a fixture in Sacramento for years, first as the CTA’s main lobbyist and now as executive director and head of a 435-member staff. His influence is felt, directly or indirectly, on virtually every elected official in the state. The CTA, the group that Republicans love to hate, is paramount at advancing its interests, although it had a tough year in the courts and has been targeted by heavy media coverage. A trial court ruled against existing teacher-tenure rules in the Vergara case, which was brought by a number of parents. But an appeals court later overturned the lower court’s decision. That case, which deals with union-backed layoff and tenure rules, is now before the California Supreme Court. On the other hand, the CTA and other unions won big – at least for now – because of a split SCOTUS decision in Friedrichs on “open shop.”
8 Allan Zaremberg
The 13,000-member California Chamber of Commerce, headed by President and CEO Allan Zaremberg, is a deep-pockets political force in Sacramento. Zaremberg, not surprisingly, is a Republican with strong ties to earlier GOP administrations. He was head lobbyist for Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson and performed the same function at the Chamber before taking the top job in 1998. Despite his traditional GOP linkage, Zaremberg is happy to hook up with Democrats, as well. He became a key adviser to former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and this year, he has joined Gov. Jerry Brown and the construction trades to oppose Proposition 53 on the November ballot, which would require public works projects using $2 billion or more in revenue bonds to go before a vote of the people.
9 Angie Wei
This is a busy year for Angie Wei, the legislative director of the California Labor Federation, the state’s AFL-CIO. Wei has had a number of titles, but the bottom line is, she’s a legislative and political strategist, and one of her jobs this year, as in every election year, is to get organized labor to turn out and vote. With some 1,200 affiliated unions and more than 2 million members, the Labor Fed helps coordinate the foot soldiers that walk districts, staff the telephone banks and put as many boots on the ground as possible. Earlier, she advocated for a coalition of four immigrant-rights groups that came together to fight federal cuts in a 1996 federal welfare reform law. Wei also is the chair of the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, a key position dealing with the management and legislative changes to the state workers’ compensation insurance system. Wei is a UC Berkeley graduate and has a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
10 Felicia Marcus
California is suffering through an interminable drought, so Felicia Marcus can’t be having much fun: She’s the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, which puts into effect the orders to curb water use across the state. In fact, Gov. Brown put her on the board in 2012, which means she’s faced drought for virtually her entire tenure. In effect, she and her board have their hands on the tap, and her agency draws close scrutiny from the media and from hundreds of water agencies throughout the state. This is a departure from previous, pre-drought years when the SWRCB didn’t capture much media coverage, although some of the regional water boards did, such as Lahontan (time to queue up “Erin Brokovich.”) Marcus was western director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She also sat on the Delta Stewardship Council for two years, was president of the L.A. Public Works Board and spent eight years as the Region 9 administrator of the EPA.
11 Eric Bauman
Eric Bauman, born in the Bronx, N.Y., has been the chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party since 2000 and he’s making a run at the chairmanship of the California Democratic Party, which will be available when John Burton steps down next year. The chances are, Bauman will get the statewide job, according to the people we talked to. He’s built up an A-list of endorsements, including those from state Senate Leader Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the California Faculty Association and the Building and Construction Trades Council. The blunt-spoken Bauman, who is gay and lives with his husband in North Hollywood, is a go-to person for national Democrats, and is involved in Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort. Bauman, who started out as a registered nurse, also has a touch of show biz: His uncle is Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of the band Sha Na Na, which appeared at Woodstock. They traveled for years and had their own national TV show.
12 Robbie Hunter
When Robbie Hunter gets excited, his Irish brogue emerges. And he gets excited often, as he battles efforts to weaken California’s prevailing wage law. Hunter, the president of the 400,000-member State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, is the epitome of a traditional labor leader: He continually travels the state, rallying the troops and girding for battle. His grandfather helped build the Titanic, and Hunter, an ironworker, came to the United States more than three decades ago. There’s a photograph on display in his Sacramento office of him in a hardhat sitting on a high-rise girder in downtown L.A. This year, his group is poised to help finance the opposition against Proposition 53, the initiative bankrolled by Stocktonian Dino Cortopassi to force a public vote on any public works project using $2 billion or more in revenue bonds. Hunter represents unions who build projects, and they fear that Proposition 53 cuts into their work, since it could block such big projects as the Delta tunnels and bullet train.
13 LaPhonza Butler
Los Angeles-based LaPhonza Butler is the president of the SEIU California State Council, which represents some 700,000 workers; president of SEIU Local 2015 and vice president of SEIU International, which is about as fancy an array of titles that you’ll find. She is credited with being a driving force to win local and statewide approval of the $15 minimum wage, a battle that she waged initially on behalf of some 200,000 long-term care workers and then widened to include others as well. She was also SEIU’s Property Services Division Director in which she was responsible for the strategic direction of more than 250,000 janitors, security officers, window cleaners and food service workers across the country. Butler is one of Hillary Clinton’s top advisers in California.
14 Jeff Kightlinger
When one mentions “water” in California, one thinks of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or the Met, which serves half of California’s population in six Southern California counties — L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. And when one mentions the Met, one thinks of Jeff Kightlinger, who for the past decade has been the Met’s general manager, managing a $1.8 billion budget and 1,800 employees. That’s a big deal at any time, but it’s especially important now with the state mired in drought and tensions rising about future development. The Met has taken a major step for securing its future: In July, a court upheld the agency’s move to purchase property in the Sacramento, San Joaquin River Delta, a $175 million deal that stirred deep controversy, especially in northern California, where suspicions of the south run deep, indeed.
15 Lou Paulson
Some 30,000 front-line firefighters across the state are represented by the Sacramento-based California Professional Firefighters, and the president of CPF is Lou Paulson, who recently retired after nearly three decades as a fire captain Contra Costa County. The firefighters are well-organized and aggressive, and Paulson inevitably winds up with a leadership role in major political fights, such as successfully blocking attempts to curb union clout at the ballot box. In raw numbers, CPF is smaller than many labor groups, but firefighters enjoy public support — they risk their lives to help people and who doesn’t like that? The CPF also has a major printing operation that handles jobs for political campaigns and other clients, including Capitol Weekly (our Top 100 Book is printed there). Not everybody is happy, however: Assorted pension-padding scandals have dogged fire departments over the last few years, in large part because of No. 100 on our list. (Ed’s Note: Corrects with reference to retirement as a fire captain.)
16 Bill Devine
It’s hard to remember that there was a time that AT&T wasn’t a formidable political player in the Capitol, and one of the reasons is Bill Devine, who coordinates the lobbying. According to state financial disclosure documents, AT&T has spent an average of about $450,000 a quarter on lobbying since last year, and in its latest quarterly report through the first quarter of this year, the company spent $750,000. There’s more to Sacramento’s power plays than money, however: Long-term relationships, institutional knowledge, trust and reliability count for a lot, and Devine’s got ‘em. Devine is folksy and friendly, but he’s also the go-to guy for AT&T, which means he often has to make hard decisions. Devine is so well regarded in Capitol corridors that he has been known to sit in the front row in hearing rooms — a privilege usually reserved for legislators. If it’s a bill that concerns AT&T, it’s a good bet that lawmakers involved will want to know what the amiable Devine thinks about it.
17 Tom Steyer
It was an odd transition at this year’s state Democratic Conventions when, in the line-up of speakers preceding Vice President Joe Biden, an orator berated the evil influence of billionaires like the Koch brothers in politics — and then Tom Steyer took the stage for his remarks. Steyer, a billionaire and a hedge-fund-manager-turned-activist, is an environmentalist, a deep-pockets Democratic funding source and a star in the Democratic firmament, although it’s not quite clear where he fits. Perhaps, someday, a candidate for governor? Maybe a candidate for U.S. Senate? National aspirations? Though he’s a Californian, his influence doesn’t stop in Sacramento: His NextGen Climate and other political action committees have been involved in races in Virginia and Massachusetts, among others. Steyer, a fierce advocate of curbing climate change, spent $57 million on candidates across the country in 2014, with mixed results, and The Guardian that year described him as the largest single donor in American politics. Though some might look upon his heavy-handed involvement in politics with some cynicism, those who know him say idealism is at the core of his well-funded activism.
18 Dave Low
As executive director of the 230,000-member California School Employees Association, DaveLow heads the largest union of classified employees in the United States, a group that includes school district employees, community college and state university workers, and even some peace officers. The CSEA, formed in 1927 when a handful of activists got together in Oakland, somehow managed to survive the Great Depression and an array of hurdles over the years. Low has risen through the ranks at the San Jose-based CSEA, and now, after 35 years, he wears a couple of hats – as executive director, he has staff management responsibilities, but he also, in effect, runs the lobbying and communications operations. Low has done union organizing, local campaigns in San Francisco and San Mateo, Personnel Board hearings, grievances, arbitration, contracts, bargaining and, of course, service as a union rep and union steward. He’s also headed Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security, which took the lead in the fight against rolling back public pensions.
19 Charles Munger Jr.
If Tom Steyer bankrolls liberal efforts in the state, Charles Munger Jr. is his conservative counterpart, and he looks the part. While Steyer appears a bit laid back, Munger is the equal and opposite: A Palo Alto physicist constantly adorned in a prim-looking bowtie-and-suspenders combo. Munger, whose father is billionaire Warren Buffet’s partner, is well-known for the ballot fights he’s funded. He pushed the successful Proposition 20 in 2010, to reform California’s redistricting process. More recently, in 2012, he was one of the biggest fighters in favor of Proposition 32, which lost, and was aimed at curbing unions’ financial clout. He was against Proposition 30, which passed, and created new income and sales taxes to balance the budget. This year, he is pushing for Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment aimed at increasing transparency in the Legislature. While many Democrats oppose the measure, likely due to Munger’s history as a backer of conservative causes, Munger has started to build a broader coalition than his measures typically receive. He also is a major funder, year by year, of the California Republican Party.
20 Yvonne Walker
Yvonne Walker is a key Hillary Clinton contact in California, and rightly so: For nearly a decade, Walker has headed SEIU Local 1000, which represents nearly 100,000 workers in 21 state bargaining units at 1,400 locations. In the world of politics, these are big numbers and they can translate into real clout for pro-labor, Democratic contenders who need a ground game or for causes that labor deems critical, such as the successful push for the $15 minimum wage. Her greatest successes come from her ability to galvanize SEIU’s membership. The minimum wage deal stemmed in part from labor’s pressure on state lawmakers – and Walker was in the middle of it.
21 Dan Reeves
As Kevin de León closes in on his second year as pro tempore, Dan Reeves, his chief of staff, is the man with the plan. In taking the statewide stage, De León’s name has come up in high profile legislative successes, like last year’s passage of an affirmative consent bill to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. This year, De León’s gun control efforts put him in the spotlight as he went head to head with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has his own gun control measure on the November ballot. While Reeves’ name might not pop up in the news articles like De León’s does, Reeves’ tireless efforts coordinating legislation and managing the day-to-day of De León’s Senate career has certainly helped get the leader to the high-profile place he occupies today. As for Reeves, who is known within the Capitol but unknown to the public, our favorite description of the Board of Equalization also applies to him – “powerful but obscure.”
22 Aaron Read
Aaron Read, who founded Aaron Read and Associates 38 years ago, is a familiar name to anyone interested in the Capitol’s political fights. Read, who started lobbying when Ronald Reagan was governor, is part of the Capitol’s institutional memory. And so are his lobbyists – Steve Baker, Randy Perry, Jennifer Tannehill, Terry McHale and Pat Moran. The firm always is among the top billers, $4.83 million in 2015, and one reason is their client list: It includes more than four dozen entities, such as Dun and Bradstreet, the California Hospital Association, PG&E, the Natural Resources Defense Council, AT&T, the auto manufacturers’ alliance, the California Grocers Association – and more.
23 Dustin Corcoran
Dustin Corcoran manages an organization representing more than 40,000 physicians in his capacity as CEO of the California Medical Association. Corcoran has been with CMA for nearly two decades, and that time is reflected in the way he successfully navigates his way around the Capitol and healthcare lobbying interests. His job is really two-fold – manage the CMA staff and educate the member doctors about the political realities of Sacramento. Our experience in the Capitol is that doctors tend to be cranky – you’d be cranky, too, if you graduated from school with a $300,000 student loan debt – so teaching them about politics is more demanding than it sounds. And 2016 is a busy political year for the CMA, which caused a stir when it came out in support of a ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana. The CMA also is involved in the campaign opposing Proposition 61, which seeks to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Corcoran has been the CMA’s chief executive since 2010.
24 Janet Napolitano
It’s been a tough year for UC: Assorted miscues or scandals at two campuses; continuing complaints about tuition costs and the recruiting of out-of-state students, who must have deeper pockets than our homegrown variety; a sharply critical state audit, political fights, administrative issues, staff layoffs (6 percent at UC Berkeley) etc., etc. Into the swirl is UC President Janet Napolitano, who heads the sprawling, 10-campus system with its five medical centers, 198,000-plus work force and its 238,000 students. UC is internationally respected for its academic quality and independence, and Napolitano is an aggressive advocate. But she’s a political infighter – she was Arizona governor before going to direct Homeland Security, a vast bureaucracy – and she’s forged a working relationship with Gov. Brown in the Capitol. She got what she wanted from Brown this year – including $350 million, plus money to expand UC Merced. As an institution, UC really doesn’t think Sacramento counts for much, and many agree. But the bare-knuckled Napolitano, backed by canny lobbying (see No. 89), is making inroads. At least for now.
25 Elaine Howle
State Auditor Elaine Howle has been on the job since her appointment to the office by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis more than 15 years ago. That means she has aggressively tracked state spending through three administrations, Republican and Democratic, and the result is that she’s built respect on both sides of the aisle. Howle, a certified public accountant with an MBA from Sacramento State, drew headlines with a blistering audit of the University of California earlier this year. Howle pointed out that the system not only raised tuition but also the number of out-of-state students it admitted as well — resulting in less opportunities for Californians to attend. The university responded sharply. Howle reports to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which commissions audits. Years ago, the committee was known for offering up political hits on rival-party candidates. But those bad old days are gone.At least, we hope so.
26 Kip Lipper
There must be some environmental legislation that emerges from the Senate without Kip Lipper’s signoff, but we haven’t seen it. Lipper’s fingerprints appear to be on every environmental bill that originates in, or comes through, the Senate, major or minor. In the Capitol, that’s called “Lipperized.” When a big bill is up – greenhouse gases, water conservation, air quality, land-use issues, etc. — and the clock is ticking, his tiny office at the rear of the Senate executive suite is the destination of a parade of people representing myriad interests. His office is even more crowded, messier and smaller than Capitol Weekly’s, which is saying something. Lipper was a long-time aide to former Sen. Byron Sher, a deal-cutting icon to environmentalists whose name graces the auditorium at the CalEPA headquarters at 10th and I.
27 Daniel Alvarez
As Secretary of the Senate, Danny Alvarez does a little bit of everything. He manages personnel, guards the institution and keeps the trains running on time. He also has a strong political gene – you have to, no matter what you do in the Capitol. Lobbyists, activists, trade association reps, lawmakers and their staffs in both houses – all say that Alvarez fills a key role in the Senate. Alvarez knows money and he knows politics. He came out of the Legislative Analyst’s Office nearly 30 years ago, taking an Assembly job in the Capitol at the Ways and Means Committee, and then moving on to the Appropriations Committee, where he handled public education.
28 Rick Simpson
Winston Churchill once famously remarked: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Winston might well have been speaking of California’s public school funding formula, a proposition that bedevils most who try to understand it, even Capitol veterans. But Rick Simpson can make sense of it all, and he can even explain it clearly to lawmakers and reporters. His official title is deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, but his real role is to serve as the Assembly’s No. 1 guru on K-12 school financing. He’s held that senior position under a succession of speakers. He came to his longtime job after holding various posts in the Capitol. Although Simpson is a master of the arcane detail, he is also acutely aware of public education’s role in the larger world of public policy formation and has been a frequent commentator on the subject. Another hat for Simpson: He is a member of the Commission on Judicial Performance, the state panel that investigates and disciplines judges.
29 Gale Kaufman
Gale Kaufman, president of Kaufman Campaign Consultants, is probably best known for her involvement with the California Teachers Association. The CTA is an influential organization (see No. 7), and Kaufman has spearheaded some of its most important ballot initiative efforts over the last few years, such as the coalition that defeated all four of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Special Election measures, the campaign in favor of Proposition 1D in 2006, and most recently the defeat of Proposition 32 in 2012. This year is no exception: She will be quarterbacking efforts on the Nov. 8 ballot to extend California’s temporary sales and income taxes that voters approved in 2012.
30 Donna Lucas
Donna Lucas, who started out years ago working as a press aide in the administration of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, is the founder and CEO of Lucas Public Affairs, a blue-chip political communications firm. Lucas also chairs the board of the Public Policy Institute of California, and she has served to influence any number of bipartisan non-profits, including Open California — the nonprofit that produces Capitol Weekly. Despite Lucas’ Republican chops, she draws bipartisan respect in Sacramento and she’s advised an eclectic list of clients. Lucas, who has ranked the ability to network as a crucial skill to succeed in the Capitol, is married to State Librarian Greg Lucas.
31 Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly is California’s secretary of transportation and a member of Brown’s cabinet, which means he has the governor’s ear on all things transportation. His office has ultimate jurisdiction over Caltrans, the huge state agency that maintains state roads and the Bay Bridge. So when people complain about crumbling roads and highways, they send their cards and letters to Kelly. If that weren’t enough for anyone’s plate, Kelly’s turf includes the $68 billion bullet train project, which has been mired in controversy virtually from day one. Before going to the Brown administration, Kelly had been a Senate staffer with a broad policy portfolio. Fresh out of college, he began working for the Democratic Caucus in 1994. After a year, he worked as a consultant and negotiator for the next four Democratic Senate leaders. He left the Legislature in 2012.
32 Rex Frazier
Rex Frazier, an attorney, professor and political aficionado, is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which represents such industry political players as State Farm, Allstate, Mercury and Farmers. Frazier, who teaches at the McGeorge School of Law, has a fundamental responsibility: Making sure that PIFC protects its companies in the halls of the Capitol or at the ballot box. He does that by moving political money around to back candidates who are helpful — or at least not hostile — to his industry. With Democratic majorities in both houses, that also means that Frazier takes careful aim at the moderates – a target-rich environment. Frazier is not often quoted in news accounts, which is by design, but he is well-known in the Capitol as a first-tier player and shows up on just about everybody’s dance card.
33 Art Pulaski
If you were looking for the quintessential labor leader, you’d probably put Art Pulaski at the top of your list. He’s been steeped in union activity since he was 16, when he was a supermarket stock clerk and a member of the meat-cutter’s local. Today, Pulaski is the executive secretary treasurer and chief officer of the California Labor Federation, which is affiliated with 1,200 unions representing 2.1 million workers. He’s been there since 1996 after serving as the executive secretary of the San Mateo Labor Council from 1984 to 1996. The California Labor Federation is not a trifling organization. Right now, Pulaski is leading the Federation’s fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it “very bad news for our jobs.” Earlier Pulaski battled for raises in the minimum wage, paid family leave, bargaining rights for public sector workers and the Affordable Care Act. Pulaski’s legions are a factor in any major political campaign; they man phone banks, walk precincts and focus voters’ attention on whatever cause they support. Politicians pay attention. They need to.
34 Mona Pasquil
In a way, Mona Pasquil,Gov. Brown’s appointments secretary, is the gatekeeper to power and status in state government. Her function may sound like a dry administrative or human resources position, but it isn’t. In reality, Pasquil’s job is highly political and sensitive. She is responsible for gathering information on candidates who hope to work for the governor, and ultimately, she helps the governor make his final hiring selections to state boards and positions. Pasquil, a former top-ranked Democratic fundraiser, knows the Capitol and all its major players backwards and forwards. That know-how comes from years of serving in the staffs of other high-profile figures, including former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and then-Sen. John Kerry during his presidential run. She even served a brief stint as lieutenant governor when Garamendi left the office and Abel Maldonado was awaiting confirmation in the position. Pasquil was the first female and the first Asian-American to serve as lieutenant governor in California.
35 Daniel Zingale
Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of the nonprofit California Endowment, is virtually unknown to the public, but he’s an important figure indeed in Sacramento. The Endowment supports any number of projects to expand quality health care, improve public education, inform the public about nutritional issues and improve the lives of the poor, among many others. The Endowment has been a major supporter of health care reform, including the creation of Covered California, the health insurance exchange. One of Zingale’s functions is to evaluate who needs what and to help decide on the Endowment’s funding. Zingale, the founding director of the Department of Managed Health, served as chief of staff to former First Lady Maria Shriver, and served as a senior adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
36 Courtni Pugh
It’s an election year and that means Courtni Pugh steps up to the plate. Long known in the L.A. area as a labor strategist and former executive director of SEIU Local 99, Pugh is the chief election strategist for Senate Leader Kevin de Léon and his fellow Democrats – which means her job is to protect the incumbent Democrats up for election this cycle and to expand their majority in the 40-member Senate by getting new ones elected. The aggressive Pugh, a former SEIU political director, started out as field organizer in Oakland. She’s managed a number of independent expenditure campaigns, and she worked on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. At SEIU, she was credited with helping push through a $15 minimum wage for school district employees. This year, Hillary Clinton named her as deputy state director of her presidential campaign.
37 Cathy Reheis-Boyd
By any measure, the Western States Petroleum Association, which includes such heavyweights as ExxonMobil and BP, is an important political and policy player, not only in California, but in Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. The executive director of WSPA is Cathy Reheis-Boyd, who has the unenviable task of coordinating the efforts and message of WSPA in an era when fossil fuels are under increasing attack, “fracking” has become a household word and hyperbole often overtakes science. Reheis-Boyd, a nimble and knowledgeable advocate, guides WSPA along something of a tightrope, offering environmental balance while protecting the economic interests of oil producers. In a state as environmentally conscious as California, it is not always easy. But Reheis-Boyd reminds the media and politicians that Big Oil means Big Benefits, creating 468,000 California jobs and $21.6 billion in state and local tax revenues.
38 Alma Hernandez
California is a state where organized labor is a potent force, and Alma Hernandez is one of the reasons why. She is the executive director of SEIU California, the first Latino to hold the position. Her job is to find and support candidates who support labor’s goals and to punish and block those who don’t. She does both – well. She also is adept at instructing legislative candidates and newly-elected lawmakers on the realities of life in the Capitol. Hernandez gets involved in statewide campaigns, battles over ballot propositions and legislative races. Her union represents city, county and state workers; social workers, home care workers, health care workers, and others.
39 Joe Lang
Joe Lang, with decades of Sacramento experience, heads one of the Sacramento’s major lobbying firms — Lang Hansen O’Malley and Miller Governmental Relations, which typically bills well over $1 million a quarter — $6.3 million, in fact, for five quarters through March. Like many of his colleagues and rivals, Lang came to heavy-duty lobbying after a stint as a legislative staffer, when he served as principal consultant to the Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee. That’s a committee that handles such things as gambling, horse racing, tobacco and alcohol legislation. The firm’s blue-chip operation has listed a wide variety of clients over the years, including utilities, local governments, gaming interests and health plans, among others. Current clients include the California Trucking Association, Accenture, The Dairy Institute, the Consumer Attorneys, and many others.
40 Anthony Wright
Health care — who gets it, who doesn’t and how much it costs — is a hot topic in Sacramento. On the front lines of the battle to expand health care to those who are now left out or inadequately covered is Health Access, an advocacy group headed by Anthony Wright. Health Access has been around since 1987 on a crusade to expand quality care to middle and low-income people. It keeps an eye on hospital mergers, worrying that the trend could hurt patient care, defends The Affordable Care Act, and lobbies the Legislature to ensure that health care programs do not fall victim to periodic attempts at budget-slashing. One of Wright’s chief goals this year has been passage of AB 72, designed to halt “surprise bills” to patients who have received care from out-of-network providers. Wright has led those efforts for 14 years, and has earned a reputation as an effective advocate. The Bronx-born Wright is a magna cum laude graduate of Amherst College, and in addition to running Health Access he is its media spokesperson and contact. (Ed’s Note: Deletes reference to chief lobbyist. Updated 8/10/2016)
41 Dana Williamson
Until this year, Dana Williamson was the governor’s cabinet secretary, a key position in state government and a sort of coordinator of the state bureaucracy. But she left that job to go out on her own in the world of political consulting. But she’s not really far that from Brown: She is handling at least two ballot measure campaigns that have caught his attention. She is opposing Proposition 53, which caps revenue bond borrowing at $2 billion for infrastructure projects without a public vote, and she is supporting Proposition 57, the governor’s parole reform initiative. Like Nancy McFadden (see No. 2), Williamson has PG&E experience. Before becoming cabinet secretary in 2013, she served as a senior adviser to Brown, and she was a deputy communications director and deputy political director for former Gov. Gray Davis.
42 Chris Woods
Chris Woods is the go-to person in the Assembly for all things budget related.His official title is budget director to the Assembly Speaker, but what that really means is he makes sure that the Assembly’s priorities are reflected in any version of the budget that emerges from the house. He advises the leaders on budget policy, and spots problems and fixes them. He advises the members on potential changes and amendments, and he coordinates strategy. This is a big deal, since we’re talking about $120 billion-plus in spending, but like a number of top staffers in the Capitol, Woods is little known outside the building and well known among the staffs, the electeds and the reporters who cover the budget.
43 Craig Cornett
Craig Cornett is the Senate’s budget director and chief fiscal adviser for Senate Leader Kevin de León, and he’s the Senate counterpart to Chris Woods. In short: He follows the money. When the Senate deals with pocketbook issues – and that’s always – Cornett is the guy who pencils it out. Cornett’s job is to make sure the Senate leader’s proposals are fiscally sound and to point out the weak spots and strengths in the spending plans. He tracks the details, advises on the politics and instructs the members. Cornett spent 17 years at the LAO and then another eight years in the Assembly before incoming Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg tapped him to replace retiring budget director Diane Cummins in 2008.
44 Dorothy Rothrock
The word ‘Dot’ might not bring to mind the dry world of business regulations, but the Capitol speaks its own language. In Sacramento, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Rothrock is synonymous with manufacturing and technology policy and advocates aggressively on behalf of business interests. A good thing, too, since Rothrock is the president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. She’s been there since 2000 and is viewed as one of the Capitol’s pre-eminent experts on business regulations. Rothrock spent most of her years as the organization’s top lobbyist and succeeded outgoing president Jack Stewart in 2014, becoming CMTA’s first female president. Rothrock is well-known as a tenacious fighter against regulations that would hurt CMTA members’ bottom line. Her time at the CMTA has her on a first name basis with the Capitol: When you think business regulation experts, think ‘Dot.’
45 Jim Brulte
Jim Brulte is the chair of the California Republican Party, and he’s the first true political pro they’ve had as chairman in years. He was GOP leader in the Assembly, and narrowly missed getting the speakership when Republicans, however briefly, controlled the lower house. He was the GOP leader of the Senate and had a hands-on role in devising political districts to protect Republican incumbents. Statewide, GOP prospects are bleak – Democrats control all the statewide constitutional offices and enjoy a 15-point edge in registration. But there are openings for Republicans in legislative and local races, and Brulte has shown ways of capitalizing on them. He also has successfully courted Charles Munger Jr. (see No. 19) as a regular funding source. By the way, that smiling face you saw on national TV at the GOP convention in Cleveland was Brulte in the first row with the California delegation.
46 Jodi Remke
Jodi Remke, chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, is the state’s political watchdog, enforcing campaign finance laws and lobbying rules. In July, she pushed through a regulation targeting so-called “shadow lobbyists,” consultants and others who communicate with lawmakers to influence policy but don’t register with the state. Remke has spent much of her adult life making sure that people follow the rules. Before joining the FPPC in April 2014, Remke served as presiding judge of the State Bar Court, part of a three-judge panel hearing appeals in attorney disciplinary and regulatory cases. She also represented the court to the Legislature and the governor’s office. Remke, an attorney, is no stranger to Sacramento. She was appointed by the Senate Rules Committee to serve as a trial judge on the State Bar Court from 2000-2006, and before that was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
47 Chris Tapio
For the past several years, Chris Tapio has been adviser and gatekeeper for the so-called Mod Dems in the Legislature, deftly helping the caucus navigate the moderate middle. Tapio has provided extraordinary guidance to the caucus as business interests clamored to recruit members to their causes. Tapio started out decades ago as an Assembly Fellow, put in his time as an Assembly staff member, and now has his own consulting business, Legislative Strategies, Inc. While Tapio can’t claim credit for the political reforms (top-two primaries, nonpolitical redistricting and term limits) that have allowed moderate Democrats to thrive, he deserves much of the credit for keeping the caucus from becoming — or appearing to become — the lap dog of business interests while helping his clients benefit from the largesse of those same interests.
48 Peter Lee
As executive director of the staff for Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, Peter Lee has been at Ground Zero for putting into effect the Affordable Care Act in California. It’s been quite a ride – making sure millions of people get their first shot at health coverage and crunching the numbers to make sure insurers and businesses are participating. The latter presents its own special challenge. A 13 percent premium increase is on the way, reflecting demands from insurers and cost increases. That compares with 4 percent hikes for each of the past two years. Lee, a UC Berkeley grad who served in the Obama administration, will have his hands full.
49 Angie Tate
Angie Tate is the chief financial officer of the California Democratic Party, and observers credited her with playing an important role in getting new funds into the organization, including raising money for the party’s newly-built headquarters in Sacramento. Tate intends to finish her gig when party chair John Burton, 83, steps down next year. His successor is not yet determined, but likely will be Eric Bauman (see No. 11). Tate and Burton go way back to his days as Senate leader, and Burton brought her over to the state party to work her magic as money manager. Which she did.
50 Mark Macarro
Tribal gambling has long been a critical policy issue in California, and lawmakers have repeatedly faced legislation to approve online gaming over the past eight years, only to have the compromises fail after ferocious negotiations. But this year, observers say, there is a 60-40 chance that a compromise will be reached between the tribes, the tracks, the card rooms and out-of-state interests for a market roughly estimated at $300 million annually. If they do, one of the reasons will be due to the efforts of Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, who own what is described as the state’s largest casino, in Temecula. Macarro is viewed as a leader within the tribal community, and is seen as a successor to the late Richard Milanovich, the chair of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died in 2012.