Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List

91. Jon Fleischman
The FlashReport, founded in 2001, 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. What makes the FlashReport valuable is that it’s a place for GOP muscle-flexing without the screeds, rants and raves of the far-right sites.  Fleischman 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. Earlier this year The Breitbart News Network announced the launch of a Breitbart California page, tapping Fleischman as politics editor and a weekly columnist.

92. Bill Allayaud
Bill Allayaud (pronounced “Ow-lee-oh”) is the California Director of Governmental Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, where he handles environmental health issues before the Legislature and Executive Branch. Allayaud’s environmental work began in the seventies, and his career includes two decades with the California Coastal Commission as a planner, permit analyst, and legislative liaison. From 2000 to 2008 he was the state director of the Sierra Club California, one of the largest environmental organizations in the country. He followed that up with a stint as senior consultant for the California State Assembly.  Today Allayaud is one of the leading voices urging caution in the use of fracking in California – we’ll see soon enough if he wins that battle. Allayaud claims to be the only lobbyist in California who saw Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, and Duane Allman live in concert.  

93. David Townsend
David Townsend, the founder and president of Townsend Raimundo Besler & Usher, is veteran Sacramento political strategist who has handled so many campaigns over the years that it’s hard to keep track. He’s won some – a lot, actually – and he’s lost some, but he’s still there with a top-flight operation that draws major clients. State and national campaign strategists looking for Sacramento-based help invariably seek out Townsend and his partners. In 2010, Townsend has been a key adviser to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who won a major political victory when the Sacramento Kings remained rather than head for Seattle. Townsend also is on the board of the Crocker Art Museum.

94. Paul Mitchell
In the arcane world of political redistricting, there are few real experts and Paul Mitchell is one of them. He’s vice president of Political Data Inc., but to journalists, politicians and political pros he’s better known as owner of Redistricting Partners, which provided a wealth of data on California’s voter-approved process of drawing political boundaries, and since then has crunched numbers on candidates and ballot measures. He not only crunches numbers, he 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 from USC – and he’s been involved in numerous campaigns up and down the state. He also is a hardcore bicyclist.   

95. Carla Marinucci
Carla Marinucci is a senior political writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, which means she does everything with speed and accuracy – she blogs, she reports long-form, she investigates, she breaks stories. Marinucci, a veteran newsie, gets into both the Reeps and the Dems, and sometimes both at the same time, as when she reported recently on Charles Munger Jr. and an odd, Republican-backed mailer extoling the virtues of Democrat Steve Glazer, an unsuccessful contender in the 16th Assembly District. Marinucci, who happily takes a microscope to the voting records of new candidates for statewide office, also does national reporting and systematic campaign coverage – two skills that are dwindling in California. And finally, we just like the Chronicle, the state’s second-largest daily newspaper and a good read. “Welcome to the Movieland Wax Museum of American journalism,” a grizzled newsie told a friend of mine on his first day on the job at the Chronicle. Love that line …

96. Elizabeth Ashford
Elizabeth Ashford is the chief of staff to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Harris, a Democrat, is a presumed contender for governor, U.S. Senate or high office outside the state. That means that Ashford holds a critical post in the administration of a politician who is likely to be on everyone’s radar for years to come — and that’s a big deal. For Ashford, it’s an unusual trajectory. She is a former public relations executive who worked for Gov. Brown as a high-level spokesperson and manager. Prior to joining Brown, she was chief of staff at the Brunswick Group, and she served as an advisor and researcher at the Conservative Party in the U.K. She was educated at Columbia University and UCLA.

97. Parke Skelton
Parke Skelton, who among other things is a wizard at direct mail campaigning, is as well known among political pros as he is unknown to the public. His Pasadena-based firm, SG&A Campaigns, has handled hundreds of races, including Board of Equalization member Betty Yee’s run for state controller. The liberal Skelton, who doesn’t have a web site but does have a Facebook page, is a fixture in Southern California Democratic politics and is usually at or near the top of a candidate’s wish list when a campaign strategist needs to be hired. In his latest high-profile race, Skelton is handling Sheila Kuehl, a law professor and former state senator and actress, who is running for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors against Bobby Shriver, brother of Maria Shriver and a nephew of the President John F. Kennedy.  One of Skelton’s races is right out of the West Wing: He ran Assemblyman Curtis Tucker’s winning campaign in 1988, but Tucker actually died before election day. The dead candidate’s victory assured Democratic control of the Legislature.

98. Donna Brownsey
The senior VP of Sacramento Advocates – she works with Barry Brokaw, who’s also on our list — is behind lots of touchy-feely sounding causes: adoption, breast cancer, dispute resolution. Don’t be fooled. She joined the lobbying corps 19 years ago, when there were far fewer women in positions of power in the industry and became the first woman in Sacramento to establish her own major firm.   Brownsey is known for having a sharp mind for legislative language and a preference for working behind the scenes. And she’s been deep in water issues — a sink-or-swim pool for any lobbyist, to be sure. Full disclosure: Years ago, she mentored the editor’s daughter, who was interning in the Capitol with Bob Forsyth and who decided she liked the political world.  Brownsey made news last year when she successfully dislodged artist Maren Conrad’s “Politically Vulnerable” paintings of Governors’ sex partners from their roost at the Vanguard nightclub, charging that the work belittled womens’ contribution to politics.

99. Mark DiCamillo
If there’s one poll political journalists look to get a sense of California’s pubic opinon, it’s the Field Poll. And since 1995, Mark Dicamillo, Senior Vice President of Field Research Corporation, has served as Director of the Field Poll. For his part at the highly respected survey research agency, Dicamillo directs four to eight statewide surveys per year and has published over 1,000 separate poll reports. The Field Poll reports on the formation of voter opinion and preferences in all ballot proposition campaigns and major statewide candidate elections, state and federal elected officials job performance, and how Californians are reacting to social, political and economic changes.

100. Joe Caves
More than a decade ago, Joe Caves 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.

A print edition of the 2014 Capitol Weekly Top 100 Book is available for $10 + $4 shipping from: Capitol Weekly, Box 837, Sacramento, CA, 95812.  For more information, please call 916.444.7665.

Ed’s Note: Corrects organization title to Rural County Representatives of California for Patricia Megason,  No. 75, and adds that Marty Morgenstern retired but remains an adviser, No. 13; and fixes former affiliation of Rick Simpson to former Gov. Gray Davis legislative director,  No. 85.  A special thanks to Tim Foster, Kathy Brown and Samantha Gallegos of the Capitol Weekly staff; to graphics whiz Judd Hertzler, and to all those — you know who you are — who offered suggestions for this year’s list. 



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