Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List

81. Mike Madrid
Mike Madrid knows politics, local government and state government, and how they all come together. He’s been a long-time advisor to the League of California Cities and was in the middle of the fight against Gov. Brown’s first major policy offensive, the abolishment of California’s redevelopment agencies. The governor’s efforts to cut enterprise zones, which have been around for decades to encourage businesses to locate in low-income areas, are also on the front burner for Madrid and his city allies. Madrid, who is deeply knowledgeable about Latino politics, heads a campaign strategy and data group called Grassroots Lab, and he also is involved in the nonprofit 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 to track the up and comers from early on.

82. Scott Lay
Scott Lay has served as the president and chief executive officer of the Community College League of California, a nonprofit association serving the state’s 72 community college districts in various areas, since 2006. In 1995 he joined the league as intern while studying at UC Davis after his time as Legislative Chair of the California Student Association of Community Colleges. A high-school dropout, Lay eventually attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and credits educators there for providing him the skills and knowledge needed to earn bachelors and law degrees at UC Davis. This is impressive indeed, but there’s more. Scott is a magician with online data and political analysis. He co-founded Capitol Weekly’s The Roundup in 2005, and he is the founder of and He does the Nooner, an email blast on politics that goes out daily at – wait for it – noon to over 5000 subscribers.

83. Rusty Areias
Rusty Areias, a former Assemblyman, chair of the California Coastal Commission and political consultant extraordinaire, is one of the pros in the stable at California Strategies, Bob White’s consulting and communications firm. Areias, who along with two colleagues was fined by the FPPC (see No. 80), knows the Capitol up and down, in and out. He was a member of the “Gang of Five,” the five Assembly members who challenged Speaker Willie Brown ‘s authority in the late 1980s – a move that drew solid support from his Los Banos-area district. He knows more stories about more people, some of which include himself. He stumbled in a race for a 12th District Senate seat – Republican Jeff Denham beat him out – but he wound up as the head of the California Coastal Commission, serving during a turbulent period when there was a concerted, unsuccessful effort to oust the powerful executive director, Peter Douglas. Areias’ wife is Julie Sandino, a major Democratic fundraiser, and between them they are potent political players.

84. Amy Chance
Amy Chance is new on our list — we did our best to keep her off, but she kept scrambling back on. And deservedly so. She is the political editor at the Sacramento Bee, which means she has enormous influence on news coverage – especially daily coverage — of the state Capitol. If you want to know what’s happening in Sacramento politics, the Bee is a must-read, although not the only read (okay, that’s a plug for little Capitol Weekly). But 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 is solidifying its grip on Capitol coverage and elbowing out a weakened LAT, and Chance is a big part of that.             

85. 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. His function is to track education money and suggest policy changes, when needed. And they are often needed. He’s a Democrat and he’s been advising Assembly speakers for years, with Toni Atkins the latest. He’s served at various capacities in the Capitol, including a stint as former Gov. Gray Davis’  legislative director. 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.

86. Amy Brown
Brown is a player when it comes to retirement in California, both in her work as a governmental advocate for DiMare, Van Vleck & Brown LLC, where she represents the California Retired County Employees Association, and as publisher of the online newsletter The Public Retirement Journal. She also used to work for the League of Cities, and the realignment plan that was pushed by another Brown, Jerry, made that expertise even more valuable. Amy Brown has been active in workers’ compensation issues as well, and served on the California Commission for Workers’ Compensation and worked on the industry changes that were signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2004. While at the League, her work topics have included health care, telecommunications, labor relations, open meetings and government transparency.

87. Jack Kavanagh
It’s been 17 years since Jack Kavanagh created Rough & Tumble, the website that offers a straight, daily compilation of California political news. It’s still the go-to place to keep up on Sacramento news coverage. It’s the first must-read for Capitol political reporters who, thirsting for traffic, want their stories to appear and be linked on Rough & Tumble. Journalists around the state covering state-related stories feel the same way and increasingly Washington tales grace the site, giving R&T a growing national audience. Kavanagh is a former television reporter in Sacramento and he set up R&T as an in-house way of educating fellow newsies at Channel 13 about politics. It proved so popular, he decided to expand it.

88. 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. Capitol Connection has done work for others, including the California School Employees Association — a nice fit, since Bouma was a teacher for 11 years. But her principal role is to advocate for CPF, which is more than a full-time job. We’ve always liked the pugnacious CPF – full disclosure: our editor’s daughter works there, and she’s pugnacious, too – because they like fights and seem to enjoy being in the front line. Since the Capitol is nothing but fights lately, CPF fits right in.

89. Beth Miller
Beth Miller is one of the top communications professionals in California and has served as a strategist and counselor to governors, statewide elected officials, members of Congress and party leaders. But, in a state dominated by democrats, Miller is usually swimming upstream these days, as in her role as senior advisor to Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s campaign to unseat Senator Barbara Boxer in 2012. She started her career in DC, and her deep connections there date back to the presidency of H. W. Bush. Miller arrived in California in 1993, working in the Wilson administration and later serving as Bill Jones’ top communications advisor. Miller is President of Miller Public Affairs, which evolved out of Wilson-Miller Communications when partner Marty Wilson left the firm to manage political operations at the California Chamber of Commerce in 2011. And, full disclosure: she also sits on the board of Open California, which publishes Capitol Weekly.

90. Aaron McLear
Aaron McLear 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 at the forefront of state government-media relations: He co-founded the Ginsberg McLear Group in 2011 and the new company was soon very busy. It worked Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, the Yes on Proposition 40 effort and the opposition to Proposition 30, Gov. Brown’s plan to temporarily raise sales and income taxes, which ultimately passed. The group also joined a Sacramento-area committee pushing for a new arena deal for the Sacramento Kings. Now, McLear is a partner Redwood Pacific Public Affairs, a blue-chip lobbying and consulting firm that launched in 2013 and merged Ginsberg McClear Group with Goddard-Claussen West. McClear, a member of the Open California governing board, is a west coast transplant: He earned a degree in journalism from Ohio State University and began his political career working for former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson.

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