News

Capitol Weekly’s Top 100: 51-100

51. Jim Wunderman is the president of the 64-year-old Bay Area Council, a business policy and development group, and has been its chief executive officer since 2004. The Council advocates in a lot of areas – higher education, broadband delivery, housing, health care, trade reforms, technology competitiveness, to name just a few – and provides research to accompany its advocacy. Wunderman, who has degrees from San Francisco State and Kingsborough College of the City University of New York, also is a director of the California Pacific Medical Center and a director of St. Luke’s Hospital.

52. Ed Manning
Ed Manning, a lobbyist with KP Public Affairs, specializes in energy, water and environmental issues, representing business interests in those areas. During a drought, being an expert in water policy makes you valuable, indeed. Manning is a former L.A. lawyer who also served in the county D.A.’s office. He specialized in land-use and environmental law before coming to KP, the highest billing lobbying firm in California. Manning lobbies the bureaucracy as much as the Legislature, and frequently deals with the state Environmental Protection Agency and Resources Agency, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Air Resources Board, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Water Resources, among others. He also served as a general counsel to Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy.

53. Darius Anderson

Darius Anderson, who rose to prominence during the Gray Davis years, wears several hats, including lobby firm chief, newspaper publisher and real estate entrepreneur, to name just a few. His lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, for which he is best known and which has been a fixture on the Top 100, has blue-chip clients and remains a force in Sacramento. He’s also the chair of the national advisory council of the Institute for Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, and has a client list that includes health care, local government, high-tech, satellite television and pharmaceutical interests. His clients have included Tesla, the Hearst Corp., Ventura County, Station Casinos, Orange County and the Orange County Transportation Authority. He drew fire several years ago when his lobbying firm paid a $500,000 fine to settle a New York state investigation involving pension fund investments.

54. David Quintana

Because of his role in building the California Tribal Business Alliance into a political force, we always associate Quintana with online gaming. Rightly, too, but there’s more going on. His firm’s client list includes Facebook, the San Diego County Water Authority, a number of tribes, the L.A. Community College District, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and many others. He’s doing e-cigarettes, too. He’s not the only lobbyist at his firm, Gonzalez, Quintana and Hunter, but he’s the most visible one. He originally wanted to be a journalist, but he dropped that idea fast – who can blame him? – but he emails a rundown each morning of the latest stories on online gaming from across the country.

55. Jonathan Ross
Lobbyist-attorney Jonathan Ross has been at KP Public Affairs since 1996, and before that he was a partner at the San Francisco law firm of Landels, Ripley and Diamond. Ross’ specialty is financial services law and regulation. He’s headed business interests’ lobbying efforts in response to lawmakers’ attempts to regulate financial privacy, credit card marketing and outsourcing. KP is a blue chip firm and Ross leads KP’s efforts for such financial services clients as Citigroup, General Electric, the California Mortgage Bankers Association, and Genworth Financial. He also is the firm’s principal adviser to the California Restaurant Association, and lead lobbyist for the Hertz Corporation and Google. Phew.

56. Rick Simpson

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, a function he’s had for years for a number of speakers, with the latest being Toni Atkins. His job is to track education money, suggest policy changes and figure out how to make them work. Simpson is a Democrat and he’s been advising Assembly speakers for so long it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. 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.

57. George Skelton

L.A. Times columnist George Skelton has exactly the right approach to covering state politics – skepticism and irritation. He doesn’t take anything for granted and questions everything, then writes it up in a tight, two-fisted fashion, such as when he complained recently that “Jerry Brown is in Europe saving the planet. The Legislature is on a monthlong vacation. And we motorists keep getting our cars beat up on California highways.” Nobody can argue with that, not even Skelton, who noted that he planned to go on vacation, “potholed roads permitting.” Skelton is a former UPI reporter who left to go into newspapering. After joining the Times, he covered government and politics, and handled stories on political polling, among other chores.

58. Barry Brokaw
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, has 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.  Full disclosure: Barry serves on the board of Open California, which publishes Capitol Weekly.

59. Bev Hansen

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 and truckers, among others.

60. Shawnda Westly

Shawnda Westly is the executive director of the state Democratic Party and manages the party’s apparatus day-to-day, a major undertaking given the Democrats’ numbers and reach. Party Chair John Burton has announced that he’ll be leaving his post in 2017, but it’s far from clear who – if anybody – is a front runner in the succession. Despite recent reports to the contrary, the well-organized Westly is sticking around – at least for a while. Westly, who set up her own consulting firm in 2005, also worked six years for the California Professional Firefighters and served as a senior adviser to S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Consumer Attorneys of California.

61. Amy Brown

Brown is a player when it comes to retirement in California, both in her work as a governmental advocate for DiMare, Brown, Hicks & Kessler, 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.

62. Amy Chance

Amy Chance is the political editor of the Sacrament Bee, which means she has a say-so about coverage of the state Capitol and state politics. The Bee has the largest journalistic presence in Sacramento, and even in an era of dwindling journalistic resources, that means something. If you want to know what’s happening in Sacramento politics, the Bee is a must-read, although certainly not the only read (okay, that’s a plug for little Capitol Weekly). What we said last year still holds true: Chance, her Bureau Chief Dan Smith and a young, aggressive staff have dominated coverage – an assessment we’ve run by a number of reporters and media watchers who strongly agree. Our sense is that the Bee continues to solidify its grip on Capitol coverage and elbowing out a weakened LAT, and Chance is a big part of that.

63. Angie Tate
The California Democratic Party seems to be in good financial shape – they’ve got that new headquarters in Sacramento at 9th and S – and since Angie Tate is the party’s chief financial officer, she gets some credit here. Tate is no stranger to dough: 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 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. Last time we checked the numbers, the Democratic Party now has about $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.

64. Shari McHugh

McHugh, Koepke & Associates is a small firm but their reputation is large and Shari McHugh’s name always pops up when the conversation turns to good lobbyists. McHugh works with her spouse – Gavin McHugh – and 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. The insurance industry is at the heart of a lot that goes on in the Capitol and McHugh is plugged in. 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, and the department is financed virtually entirely by the industry.

65. Paula Treat
With an uncanny networking ability, nearly four decades of experience and friendships on both sides of the aisle, Treat is sort of a one-person road show who somehow seems to know everybody’s business, including Capitol Weekly’s. Her eclectic client list includes CMA, Cigna, Southern California Edison, two Native American tribes and the cigar and pipe retailers. Treat, one of the first women to own a contract lobbying firm in California, also heads the board of the nonprofit Leadership California Institute, which has provided research and forums on critical political issues such as voter turnout and the status of women in government.

66. Cynthia Bryant
When Jim Brulte took over as chair of the troubled California Republican Party, his first call was to Cynthia Bryant to persuade her to be his executive director and chief operating officer. It was a decision that won praise, even from Democrats – Bryant is a real pro and well known in Sacramento. She has solid Republican credentials. She headed the Office of Planning and Research for three years during the Schwarzenegger administration, temporarily ran the Department of Finance, handled policy for the Senate Republican Caucus and worked at Russo Marsh Rogers for 13 years as an account executive and vice president, and was a senior vice president at the Charter Schools Association. Quite a resume.

67. Alma Hernandez

SEIU California swings a lot of political weight and Alma Hernandez is the group’s political director, which means her task is to elect candidates and pass policies that benefit SEIU’s 700,000 members and their families in California.  Apart from her talent – we can confirm the talent; she knocked ‘em dead at our election post-mortem last year – she is the first Latina to hold the critical position of political director at the state’s largest labor union. 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.

68. Mike Belote

Mike Belote is the president of California Advocates, one of Sacramento’s oldest and best known contract lobbying firms and one with an array of blue-chip clients that have been with the firm for years. Belote’s 35-year lobbying career began with association lobbying jobs with CPAs, Realtors and title companies. He’s been a contract lobbyist since 1990 and his specialties include the judicial branch, real estate, and financial services, including judges, civil defense lawyers, employment law, and more.  He also represents a range of other clients including new car dealers and Apple. He is known for philanthropic work relating to domestic violence and veteran’s services, and he sponsors a lecture series every year discussing a key issue of California policy.  Belote also serves on the board of the nonprofit Open California, which publishes Capitol Weekly.

69. John Latimer

Lobbyist John Latimer founded Capitol Advocacy 16 years ago and the client list now includes California retailers, the pharmaceutical coalition 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.

70. Joe Barr

Joe Barr heads up news, information, multimedia and music services at Capital Public Radio, which is quite a load. His title is Chief Content Officer, and for once a title is accurate – he basically does it all. CapRadio seems to be everywhere. It’s got special beats for health care, the environment and food. It has added a slew of reporters this year and it’s got three million listeners a week at 50 stations in California, Oregon and Nevada. It has PolitiFact California, the first public radio partnership with the Pulitzer winning PolitiFact, which passes on the truth – or falsity – of candidates’ statements. Barr’s staff covers the Capitol, handles fires, drought and assorted disasters and seems to be everywhere. Prior to CPR, Barr was senior producer for the Westwood One radio network, and he worked at commercial stations in Pennsylvania.

71. Jack Kavanagh

When Jack Kavanagh put together an internal, political news aggregation site in 1997 as a way to educate reporters on politics at his TV station, he probably had no idea that one day it would be the go-to place for followers of California politics. But it is: His Rough & Tumble web site offers a straight, daily compilation of California political news. It’s still the resource to keep up on Sacramento news coverage. Jack sorts through hundreds of emails a day that include writers pimping their tales, reporters whining that Jack’s ignoring them and other reporters complaining that they had the story first. Political reporters, thirsting for traffic, want their stories to appear and be linked on Rough & Tumble, which has about 300,000 page views a month, many of them from D.C. readers. Kavanagh is a former television reporter in Sacramento at Channel 13 and public television.

72. Aaron McLear
Aaron McLear has a journalism degree from Ohio State and he knows news, but he also knows advocacy and communications. He got into the California political communication wars in a big way during his three-year stint as press secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then he’s been involved in any number of issues and clients. Last year, he was lead spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, and he successfully handled communications for the multimillion-dollar campaign against a ballot measure to lift the cap on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases. He worked Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and the opposition to Proposition 30, which ultimately passed. He also was part of a Sacramento-area committee pushing for a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. Now, McLear is a partner in Redwood Pacific Public Affairs, a blue-chip lobbying and consulting firm that launched in 2013. McLear, a member of the Open California governing board, began his political career working for former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson.

73. McNally-Temple

It’s almost as if McNally-Temple is one person – like “Ben and Jerry” and ice cream, Ray McNally and Richard Temple really are two parts of one whole.  McNally/Temple has been a top consulting team for California Republicans for many years – and national ones, too. The client list includes George Bush, Pete Wilson, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, various GOP lawmakers, contenders and county committees; and even the late Sonny Bono, plus an array of ballot propositions. But one might assume that with the decline in California Republican’s political power, there would be a similar decline in McNally/Temple. Not so. They have formed alliances with labor organizations, business groups and others, McNally/Temple retains its longstanding reputation as one of the Sacramento’s strongest consulting firms. McNally founded the company in 1980.

74. Dan Walters

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters is the classic newsie, starting as a young reporter and editor at small dailies, including Hanford and Eureka, and later as a writer at the old Sacramento Union, where he was a star. He was poached by the Bee during the 1984 Democratic convention in S.F., and has been a columnist there ever since. For many years, his column was a must-read in state politics – for many, it still is – because Dan was sort of a Sacramento answer to Jack Anderson, a mix of hard-edge reporting, policy analysis with a generally right-of-center approach and an assured, fearless way of dealing with politicians’ miscues.  He writes in a straight-forward way, has the reporter’s nose for a good story and can explain complex issues in a clear, simplified way without screwing them up. His print hole has shrunk, technology has changed, politicians come and go, but Dan Walters remains a Sacramento institution.

75. Peter Lee

Peter Lee is executive director of Covered California, the agency that puts into effect California’s piece of the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act. That means Lee runs the troops at Ground Zero of health care reform in California, and it’s like being at the eye of the hurricane. There are programs experiencing a dramatic expansion, there is a deepening need to sign up new people for coverage, there are fiscal pressures, there are political battles, there is a lot at stake. Before going to Covered California, Lee served in the Obama Administration at the Center for Medicaid and Medical Innovation. A UC Berkeley graduate, 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.

76. Bill Bloomfield
L.A.-area businessman Bill Bloomfield has an interest in politics and he can afford it. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012 as an independent against Henry Waxman, and his campaign spent some $7.9 million for the effort, almost all of it his own money. He lost, but ran a credible race, and he has been showing up increasingly since as a donor to moderate Democrats. Last year Bloomfield, a Manhattan Beach real estate entrepreneur, contributed nearly $8 million to various campaigns, including Democrat Marshall Tuck’s race for state schools superintendent and Ben Allen’s successful campaign for a Santa Monica Assembly seat. Bloomfield seemingly came from nowhere – one political consultant said he “never heard of him until Waxman” – but you can bet he’ll be around for a while and that he’ll play a significant role next year. (Ed’s Note: Corrects original to reflect Bloomfield donations to Democrats).

77. Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson is a political consultant’s political consultant, literally: The veteran strategist, the president of The Wayne Johnson Agency, served as president and chairman of the American Association of Political Consultants, as well as an American representative on the board of directors of the International Association of Political Consultants. By the way, if there’s one thing that’s on the Capitol Weekly’s bucket list it’s attending an international conference of political consultants. Johnson is deft at moving resources around, and his outfit – sort of a one-stop shop for political fighters – has an expertise in ballot props. Johnson led the effort to defeat Proposition 19, the attempt to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, and he pushed for the passage of Proposition 11, the redistricting reform measure.

78. Lynn “Nay” Valbuena
Lynn Valbuena is the chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and chair of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations – responsibilities that put her at the center of tribal issues in state politics. This year, her role of highest visibility in the Capitol was her participation in intense negotiations over whether to legalize internet poker in California. This was the seventh year that major online gaming legislation has been considered, and rejected, in the Capitol – and it may not be over yet. There were rumors as we went to press that pro-internet poker forces were launching a push for the final days of the legislative session in mid-September. TASIN has both gaming and non-gaming members, so Valbuena deals not only with gaming issues, as well as social, tribal sovereignty, economic development and cultural issues as well. Valbuena also is a member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

79. Jason Kinney

Jason Kinney is 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 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. 12). Kinney also knows the relationships between strategists, candidates and clients, and is a walking encyclopedia of what’s going on beyond the public view.

80. Christy Bouma

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 in 2012 and are all but certain to go to the mat again if cuts in public pensions make the statewide ballot. 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. Welcome to Sacramento.

81. Steve Maviglio

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. 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.

82.  Mark Macarro

The question of tribal gaming has been a public policy debate in California for a generation, but there is little doubt that over time, public acceptance of tribal gaming has increased. One reason for that change is Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño 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 where legislation has been proposed, and blocked, for seven years. Macarro has been described as a successor to the mantle of Richard Milanovich, the legendary chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died in 2012.

83. Craig Cornett

After a stint at the LAO, Craig Cornett went to the Capitol to do what he always does – follow the money. He’s been in both houses, and now he’s the chief fiscal adviser to Senate Leader Kevin De León. 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. From time to time, he instructs reporters, too – much to the relief of both.

84. Ned Wigglesworth

Ned Wigglesworth manages statewide ballot measure campaigns and public affairs at Redwood Pacific, and since they represent the firm’s meat and potatoes – Propositions 45 and 46 last year are good examples — Wigglesworth is in a key position. He’s had an unusual trajectory. In his first year on the job in 2010, Wigglesworth led the successful campaign for business-backed Proposition 26 to curb taxes and fees. Earlier, he served as a spokesperson for the California Medical Association, and before that he was a spokesperson for California Common Cause. Wigglesworth has worked an array of campaigns and once even made an appearance on the Daily Show – via film, not in person – when his role in health-related issues during the Schwarzenegger years got the producers’ attention. “I did an interview with some reporter in LA and some stoner writer for the Daily Show was probably sitting on his couch at 10:30 at night and saw my name and started giggling…” Wigglesworth later told Capitol Weekly. Wigglesworth has a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

85. Annie Notthoff

Annie Notthoff is the Natural Resources Defense Council’s principal advocate in California and she does it well. She leads the organization’s public policy efforts, ranging from legislative bills to statewide initiatives to forming coalitions involved in environmental and public health protection. She’s been with the NRDC since 1982, and during her tenure, she has racked up a long list of victories, both state and national: She was instrumental in creating the first network of marine reserves under presidents Clinton and Bush, she pushed successfully for a state ban on shark fins and for passage of California’s landmark law to curb greenhouse gases, AB32. The NRDC probably is closer to Brown’s administration than many other groups, but the relationship isn’t always smooth: The NRDC has praised Jerry Brown’s “bold leadership” while at same time opposed his plan to build dig tunnels through the Delta to bring northern water south.

86. Minnie Santillan
As chief of staff to Assembly Henry Perea, D-Fresno, Minnie Santillan is in a key slot in the Capitol. A Republican we know described Perea as the “second-most powerful member of the Assembly after the speaker,” and it’s not hard to see why. Perea, a leader of the business-friendly group known as the “new Democrats,” has shown political moxie, and it’s no accident that he chose Santillan as his chief of staff. Santillan knows Central Valley politics. One of 11 children, she majored in criminology at Fresno State, worked for the California Voter Registration Project and has handled multiple Assembly, Senate and congressional campaigns up and down the valley. She was a consultant to former Speaker Fabian Nuñez and the chief consultant to the Latino Legislative Caucus.

87. 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.

88. Nancy Drabble

Nancy Drabble is the chief executive officer of the Consumer Attorneys of California, an aggressive, well-funded group that frequently gets involved in high-stakes policy and political battles with insurers and doctors. When you pick fights, sometimes you lose, and that happened last year on a big scale when an initiative backed by attorneys to raise the medical malpractice limit for pain and suffering was rejected by voters. To Drabble, a veteran of many political battles, high-stakes ballot fights are nothing new. She came to the Consumer Attorneys in 1986, fresh from a stint with consumer activist Ralph Nader’s “Raiders.” The attorneys’ web site notes that she was a behind-the-scenes player in the “napkin deal” at Sacramento’s Frank Fat’s restaurant that temporarily brought a truce between insurers, doctors, manufacturers and lawyers. Drabble, from Los Angeles, received her law degree from UC Berkeley.

89. 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. 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. Last year Fleischman expanded his reach, signing on to the newly launched Bretbart California site as political editor.

90. Courtni Pugh

Courtni Pugh is the chief election strategist for Senate Leader Kevin de Léon and his fellow Democrats, a job which she took after stepping down as executive director of SEIU Local 99. Pugh replaced Lisa Gasperoni, a veteran consultant who formed her own firm. Pugh’s task is to protect the Senate Democratic majority and boost it with labor-friendly lawmakers – a plan that clearly went awry in the 16th Senate District this year when business-friendly Democrat Steve Glazer pulled off a win. But 2016 gives her another battlefield and Pugh is adept at winning fights. 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. In conversations about the top labor players, her name is always mentioned in the top tier. Pugh 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.

91. Paul Mitchell

There’s not much we can say about Paul Mitchell that we haven’t said before: In the arcane world of political redistricting, there are few real experts and Paul Mitchell is one of them. Mitchell is the owner of Redistricting Partners and vice president of Political Data Inc., and he’s worked on political campaigns for years. He can tell you why Northern California voters are advantageous to candidates in statewide races. He can analyze the voting habits of millennials who live with their parents, as opposed to those who don’t.  He can tell why California’s political districts may have to change to comply with the Voting Rights Act. He crunches numbers, then 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 an avid bicyclist.

92. Jeff Kightlinger
For more than nine years, Jeff Kightlinger has been the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the huge wholesaler that sends water to 19 million customers in six counties – L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. That’s a big deal at any time, but it’s especially important now with the state mired in drought and tensions rising about the future. Like nearly every water entity in the state, the Met wants more – and that leads to political battles. Kightlinger and his allies have clout in Sacramento and they generally back the governor’s attempts to move the twin tunnels project forward, but that subject is touchy up north. Kightlinger, who manages 1,800 employees and a $1.8 billion budget, has had the top job since 2006, and that says plenty about his survival skills.

93. Joe Caves

It seems like every year, there is major water legislation, either because of bills in the Capitol or initiatives on the ballot, or both. On top of that, we’ve got the drought, some infrastructure money to spend, traditional tensions between north and south, and the never-ending story of the Delta twin tunnels. You put all this together and you’ve got a lot of action on water projects. Figuring out which projects to do and how much to spend is Joe Caves’ specialty. More than a decade ago, he co-founded the Sacramento-based consulting and lobbying firm Conservation Strategy Group. The firm specializes in environmental and natural resources strategy and advocacy, consistently hot topics in a state that tends to lead the nation in enviro-regulations. Caves has a history of working around and in the Capitol. Prior to his current gig, Caves lobbied for his namesake firm, Joseph Caves and Associates. He also served in the Legislature as a committee consultant and legislative director for more than a decade.

94. Mike Madrid
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. 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.

95. Jaxon Van Derbeken
Okay, we’re coming out of the closet: We like the Chronicle. One of the reasons is reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken, who seems to cover everything worth covering and repeatedly broke new ground on three of the biggest stories of  the year — the PUC’s Michael Peevey, the aftermath of the San Bruno gas explosion and the never-ending deficiencies of the multibillion-dollar Bay Bridge project.  It’s hard to break a really good story, but Van Derbeken seems to do it all the time. If you’re a state politics junkie, you read the Bee because you must if you want to stay informed. And you read the LAT because you think you should. But you read the feisty, tightly-edited Chronicle because it’s fun. Why not?

96. Cathleen Decker
Cathleen Decker has been a respected national politics editor at the Los Angeles Times for years, but now she’s got a writing gig, and that’s a good thing for readers who, like us, are political junkies. Decker has a solid rep among reporters – no easy feat, considering the brittle, jealous and suspicious nature of journalists – and the fact that she’s now writing regular columns in the state’s largest paper comes as welcome news. One journalist we know who aggregates news said, “I don’t care what she writes, I want it. It’s always good,” and we concur. She writes on demographics, personalities, an array of issues, campaigns – you name it. She’s in the midst of covering her 10th presidential election – which is either wonderful or depressing, depending on your view.

97. Jodi Hicks

Mention Hicks to believers in California’s anti-vaccine fatwa, and you’ll provoke outrage, to put it mildly. She has said that she has been stalked and threatened as a result of her vaccine advocacy, and from the tenor of the comments we’ve seen, we certainly believe it. Hicks is a respected health-care advocate and a founding partner of the DiMare, Brown, Hicks, and Kessler lobbying firm and a former lobbyist for the California Medical Association.  For the last three years, she has lobbied for the California Academy of Family Physicians, She helped get California’s landmark mandatory vaccination law, which the CAFP co-sponsored, through the legislature and onto Jerry Brown’s desk, earning the enmity of anti-vaxxers. But there is much more to the deft and pleasant Hicks than the vaccination furor. Her firm is a major Capitol player, currently listing a long and disparate roster of clients ranging from Safeway to the Transgender Law Center. Her husband, by the way is Paul Mitchell (No. 91), which shows that loves blooms eternal at The Top 100 list, despite what anyone says.  (Ed’s Note: Adds California Academy of Family Physicians and includes CAFP’s cop-sponsorship of the vaccination legislation.)

98. John Norwood

Veteran lobbyist John Norwood handles insurance issues, financial services, business interests, government relations and more. He was a chief lobbyist for the manufacturers association, and he founded and managed the law-lobbying office of Heron, Burchette Ruckert & Rothwell, a national political firm. He founded Norwood and Associates in 1990, and he’s been there ever since. His insurance clients include Liberty Mutual, Zenith, Pacific Life and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California. Others include Churchill Downs and Comcast. One of his clients is the California Pool and Spa Association, and all we can say is if John can protect the swimming pool industry deep into a four-year drought, then he’s a magician. So far, for the most part, he’s a magician.

99. Barry Broad

Lobbyist Barry Broad, a deft lawyer and a strong labor advocate, is the chair of the Employment Training Panel, a body that’s been around since 1982, funded by employers, which provides job training and placement assistance to workers in a changing economy. Disliked by business and backed by labor, the Employment Training Panel is an important body in the labor-business world and Broad is at the heart of it.  Broad’s clients include such heavy hitters the Teamsters Public Affairs Council, the Jockey Guild and the Unite Here International Union. Broad, by the way, is 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.

100. Craig Brown

Craig Brown knows prison and correctional issues, and he should. He’s one of those utility infielders who can do anything. He was an undersecretary of corrections, head of the Youth Authority, director of the Corrections Department and, during the Pete Wilson years, he was named director of the Finance Department, the agency that writes the governor’s budgets and decides on money for a demanding bureaucracy. After a stint in the Air Force, he joined the LAO, then left in the early 1980s to work for the Deukmejian administration. He served in executive correctional positions in both the Deukmejian and Wilson administrations and retired as Finance Director. He worked with lobbyist Richard Robinson for 12 years, and after Robinson retired, set up his own firm, Craig Brown and Associates, and handles only a handful of clients – including the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.


  • Alex Rooker

    Where are you getting your facts that Former Senator & CDP Chair, Art Torres left the State Democratic Party with a $1.12 in the Bank?

    Alexandra Galkardo-Rooker
    CDP Vice Chair

Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: