NAME: Lenny Goldberg
JOB TITLE: Public Interest Lobbyist
Capitol Weekly: You’re no longer in the ‘Good Guys’ building at 926 J. How
are you enjoying your new office location?
Lenny Goldberg: I like it a lot better here. I was looking forward to having
a turret office and now I have this little turret to sit in. I like it.
CW: What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
LG: The long-term project is the reassessment of commercial property in the
state of California which is the reform of Prop. 13 in so far as it effects
commercial property, which is about $3.5 billion for cities, counties sand
schools. It is the single most irrational part of our state’s tax system. It
is indefensible, it’s bad economics. I have slide shows on it, I have
papers, and I have done a lot of other research on it. I have talked to a
lot of economists and no one can defend our present tax system. We just need
to create a table that gets a discussion going- then we can get something
done. I have a specific goal in mind–I will retire when we reassess
commercial property and reform Prop. 13.
CW: How long do you think that will take?
LG: I will work till I am one hundred probably. No, probably in the next ten
years–then everybody will have me out of their hair.
CW: So who do you represent as a lobbyist?
LG: I am an oxymoron to an extent: a public interest contract lobbyist.
Contract lobbyists tend not to be public-interest, because public interest
groups usually hire in-house lobbyists. As a lobbyist, I do no campaign
contributions or entertainment or anything like that. I worked in the
Legislature before this. I am an economist. I had no business plan but it
sort of came together about twenty years ago. It’s all about the issues; not
the connections that I have in the Capitol. I represent the California Tax
Reform Association; the Utility Reform Network–I went through the whole
deregulation and electricity crisis process in varied intensity; the Privacy
Rights Clearinghouse, which works on consumer privacy issues including
identity theft; and the Rural Community Assistance Coalition.
CW: What are some of the projects you will be working on?
LG: I am working on the Radio Frequency Identification bill coming up and
the Real ID bill that has a lot of privacy challenges with the driver’s
license. We have made a lot of progress for the public’s privacy- there are
a lot of people in the capitol who have been staunch privacy advocates.
CW: I hear that your brother is a sports writer for The Associated Press.
LG: My brother is the chief pro-football writer. I got to sit in the press
box when the 49ers were at some of the play-off games, went to the Super
Bowl. I am a policy wonk, so we are a little different. But he shares my
CW: What do are some of your hobbies besides being an activist?
LG: I play lead guitar in two bands. Mostly covers, classic rock, folk
music, and a little jazz.
CW: So do you play shows around town?
LG: Well, the bands practice a lot, but we don’t have a lot of gigs. We play
at parties and other things, occasionally. I played in bands years ago and I
learned that if I had anything to say in the world it was not going to be
with my guitar. I’ll leave that to Carlos Santana- I was a more verbal
person shall we say. I also play golf and cross-country ski. I am also a
grandparent and try to lavish any time I can on my granddaughter. I am not a
work-a-holic, but I work hard.
CW: Do you consider yourself one of the “good” lobbyists?
LG: I will let other people make that judgment. It is public interest. I
work based on my principles. My clients are non-profit public interest
groups. If people take issue with their perspective, that’s fine. I like to
battle, so it’s fine.