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.