Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List

1. Anne Gust Brown
Anne Gust Brown is the wife of the governor, of course, but she’s also his closest political and policy adviser, soul mate, protector, campaign strategist and personal manager, and she even has a nose for political fundraising. She’s a lawyer with a penchant for finance and corporate personnel management – she was chief administrative officer at the Gap for five years – and this skill set certainly gives her the chops to handle the cerebral, inquisitive, quirky, parsimonious, profoundly ambitious and systemically disorganized Jerry Brown, 76. Brown’s 50-year, roller coaster political career from community college trustee to secretary of state to California governor to unsuccessful U.S. Senate contender and several failed presidential candidacies, to state Democratic party chief and talk-show host, state attorney general and, amazingly, back to the governorship nearly four decades after his first term is one of those “only in California” tales. Quite a ride. Anne Gust Brown, who met Brown in 1990 after they were introduced by mutual friends, has been a big part of that. A product of Stanford and the University of Michigan law school, she left the Gap in 2005 to help run Brown’s campaign for attorney general and they were married after their whirlwind, 15-year courtship. When they met, Jerry Brown was chairman of the California Democratic Party and Anne represented him in a lawsuit for free – God bless pro bono! — and the two started dating soon after. The rest, as they say, is history. We noted last year that if Anne Gust Brown does, in fact, wield decisive influence over her husband, then she is playing a major role in a critical period of California’s history. This time, we can say flatly: There’s no “if” about it. That’s exactly what she’s doing.

2. Joe Nuñez
Joe Nuñez, who started out as a teacher in Santa Maria, is the executive director of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association and that pretty much says it all. Nuñez, the first Latino executive director in the CTA’s history, represents the single most influential political entity in the state. Before he got the new title last year, he was the CTA’s chief of government relations. But whatever the fancy moniker, the upshot is that Nuñez directs the CTA’s 400-plus member staff and pushes the CTA’s gospel of labor protection and educational quality among California’s elected officials and candidates, while heading off what seems to be an increasing drumbeat of criticism of teachers and public education. Doing that means using money, cajolery and judicious arm-twisting, and he’s an expert at all three. If the governor’s wife wasn’t as influential as she is, Nuñez likely would be No. 1. But she is and he isn’t — and there you are.

3. Nancy McFadden
Nancy McFadden, executive secretary and chief of staff to Gov. Brown, is the administrative leader of the “Horseshoe” – the governor’s hermetically sealed inner sanctum – who stands at the intersection of policy and politics. God only knows what the Horseshoe’s flow chart looks like, but this much is clear: Nothing much happens unless McFadden, a lawyer, signs off on it. McFadden’s political chops include her service as a top strategist for PG&E where sources say she was a dissenting voice on the utility’s ill-fated Proposition 16 campaign, and she’s had roles in and around the Capitol for years. She was a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, a senior member of the Clinton Administration, general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation and deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore. And if Joe Nuñez is a perennial No. 2, Nancy McFadden is equally at home as the No. 3.

4. Diana Dooley
Diana Dooley is the Health and Human Services Secretary and she’s also the chair of the California Health Benefit Exchange, which means she is at the epicenter of decision-making related to health care policy and finances as the Affordable Care Act takes root in California. Dooley, Brown’s first major appointment after his 2010 election, has a say in the administration of a multibillion-dollar marketplace, has a background in health care issues and politics and appears to be the right person for the job at a time when the future of health care is so uncertain. Dooley headed the California Children’s Hospital Association and prior to that she was general counsel and vice president of the Children’s Hospital near Fresno. She served Brown during his first years as governor, too, as legislative secretary and special assistant from 1975 to 1983. They go way back.

5. Mary Nichols
The top 10 portion of the Top 100 is pretty exclusive real estate, at least to us, and Mary Nichols is moving up and settling right in. As chair of the Air Resources Board, she is deeply involved with the implementation of AB 32, the state’s landmark law to curb greenhouse gases. The ARB, the nation’s premier air-quality enforcer that often sets the standard for other states, manages the cap-and trade auctions dealing with emission allowances. That’s long been a high-stakes issue and especially so now as the transportation fuels component begins to kick in come January. Nichols’ very name is synonymous with environmental regulation in California. An environmental lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, she worked for Brown back in the old days during his initial terms as governor as chair of the ARB, worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger as ARB chair, worked for Gray Davis as Resources Secretary and now is working for Brown as – you guessed it – ARB chair. What goes around, comes around — and goes around again.

6. Bill Devine
Bill Devine runs point for AT&T in Sacramento and AT&T is a big player – the single, largest corporate player, in fact — in the Capitol. The job of Devine, AT&T’s vice president for legislative affairs, is to direct the lobbying effort in California and make sure AT&T gets what it wants. So far he’s been successful. No single corporation spends more – an estimated $14,000 a day since 2005, as we noted earlier — trying to influence the Capitol than AT&T. So victories are common, defeats are rare and policy changes plentiful. Whether the issue involves deregulation of telephone service, VoIP, broadband or wireless, AT&T invariably is in the midst of the fight. Not only does it have its own lobbying staff, AT&T retains other top firms, too – including people on the Top 100 list – to pressure lawmakers. Its annual Pebble Beach golf tournament reportedly costs about $250,000 to put on. It typically raises $1 million or more for Democrats, and that’s a good thing: There are a lots of Democrats, including a hefty contingent of business-friendly Democrats that Devine keeps his eye on.

7. Dana Williamson
 In August of last year, Jerry Brown promoted senior advisor Dana Williamson to the position of cabinet secretary, a job the ever-unpredictable governor had chosen to leave open for the first three and a half years of his third term. Before joining the Brown administration in 2011, Williamson spent five years as director of public affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric.  Prior to her stint at PG&E Williamson was communications director in the California State Assembly Majority Leader’s Office from 2004 to 2006, and was associate vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte from 2002 to 2004. She served as deputy communications director in Gray Davis’ office and worked for his successful re-election campaign in 2002.  In a ‘normal’ administration, other agency secretaries would report to the cabinet secretary, but with Brown it’s never safe to assume.  That said, Williamson is well inside the governor’s intimate circle and as cabinet secretary, she coordinates California’s vast bureaucracy at the highest levels.

8. Jim Earp
Jim Earp, the head of the Alliance for Jobs, likes to build big projects and who can blame him? He sits on the California Transportation Commission, the powerful panel that decides major road projects and sets the priority schedule to pay for them. His Alliance for Jobs represents some 1,700 construction companies and 50,000 unionized workers that focus on infrastructure projects and that translates into a lot of dough and political clout. At a time when the state appears to be moving toward a major Delta tunneling project and high-speed rail, as well as a multibillion-dollar water bond in November, the Alliance has a lot at stake and Earp, who long ago was a newsie on the North Coast, has a seat at the table. The Alliance historically has pushed for bond financing for an array of infrastructure projects, and his group played a major role in the big-dollar discussions over air-quality rules for diesel equipment. The 2014 water projects bond is being rewritten as we go to press, with at least four major, alternative proposals ranging from $6 billion to $8.7 billion, and the Alliance is involved in the discussions over all of them.

9. Maria Elena Durazo
Eight years ago, Maria Elena Durazo took over as head of the L.A. County Labor Federation and nobody was quite sure how long she’d be around. She’s still around. She came in on an interim basis during a difficult transition period following the death of her husband, Miguel Contreras, who rose from a San Joaquin crop worker to build a powerful labor organization in the state’s most populous county. L.A., believe it or not, was once something of a swing county that could go either way. But it’s now solidly Democratic, with Democrats over Republicans better than two-to-one. In L.A., the “Fed” has the power to make and break candidates — or at least influence them at campaign time. Every L.A.-area Democrat in the Legislature has come to terms with the Fed, a process that shows no signs of changing.

10. Mac Taylor
 Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and his staff, known collectively as the Legislative Analyst’s Office, do a lot of heavy lifting for taxpayers, although Taylor is largely unknown outside the Capitol. First, the LAO examines the budget line by line – the dollars as well as the policies — and cuts through the smoke and mirrors. The LAO analyzes ballot initiatives, special funds, program expenditures, tax receipts, school costs, the prison system, health care, environmental programs and state-local realignment, just to name a few, and provides a road map for lawmakers who have to vote on the budget. We’ve always thought that the LAO was the closest thing in the government bureaucracy to reporters. Certainly, the LAO staff prides itself on being balanced (The joke goes that the first words of a baby with LAO parents are ‘’on the other hand…”). The LAO is hired by the Legislature – which really means by the majority party – but even in the hyper-political, over-heated, knife-in-the-back atmosphere of the Capitol, there is scant complaining about Taylor and his staff from either side of the aisle.

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