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Pete Wilson returns

Pete Wilson is coming back to Sacramento.

The former two-term Republican governor, U.S. Senator and mayor of San Diego is opening a strategy and policy office in Sacramento, the latest outpost of Bingham McCutcheon, an international law firm with A-list corporate clients. The firm includes a consulting arm that advises clients on environmental, regulatory, legal, governmental and other issues.

Wilson, a lawyer who is based in Los Angeles where he is an adviser to Bingham McCutcheon, said the Sacramento office likely will open next month, in part to deal with the myriad issues raised by California’s laws to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

“I’m going to be a frequent commuter, perhaps a couple days a week,” Wilson told Capitol Weekly. “There is abundant opportunity [for clients] to realize that they need counseling to stay out of regulatory trouble.”

California’s carbon-emissions law, he added, is pervasive and will have an impact on the economic landscape. The law doesn’t fully take effect for more than a decade, but Wilson said companies need to be prepared. “It’s never too early for people to stay out of trouble successfully.”

Wilson, a mentor to current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be joined by his former deputy chief of staff, Sean Walsh, who headed Schwarzenegger’s Office of Planning and Research; Bill Kissinger, who served the Clinton Administration as a senior adviser in both the White House and State Department, and also spent two years in Governor Gray Davis’ administration; and Tom Gede, a former assistant state attorney general on the executive staff and a top adviser to former Attorney General Dan Lungren.

The firm’s other office locations include a newly opened 22-lawyer office in Tokyo, and offices in Hong Kong, London, Silicon Valley, New York and Santa Monica. The location of the Sacramento office is currently being negotiated but is likely to be within a few blocks of the Capitol.

Bingham McCutcheon, which has a 1,000-lawyer roster, joins a number of other major firms with poiltical and legal operations in Sacramento, including Manatt Phelps, Nielsen Merksamer and Greenberg Traurig, among others. Bingham McCutcheon has major federal, as well as state, relationships and connections–which makes the firm different from most others in Sacramento, Walsh said.

“There is a high degree of penetration in a bipartisan way at the federal and national level. There are very few firms that have that, and we are at the top of that list,” Walsh said. “Pete was a U.S. senator, of course, and he had a seat on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. I’m not aware of any firm in California that has interaction at that level.”

Kissinger said the office’s mission is consulting and strategy, not lobbying.

“It’s not our intention to be lobbyists. There are a lot of lobbyists in Sacramento, and we are not competing with them,” he said. “Our role historically is to provide strategic advice. At times, we may be hiring lobbyists in Sacramento. We can identify issues and we can help identify those lobbyists for our clients. There is a level of expertise and sophistication here that not a lot of firms have.”

Apart from Wilson, who served 12 years as mayor of San Diego and eight years in the Senate, his colleagues also have extensive government and political contacts in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C.–which they believe will prove valuable in the Sacramento office, which will cater to national and international clients.

“California is becoming Ground Zero, the central point, for changes that are occurring nationally and internationally,” Walsh said. “In the entertainment perspective, the environmental perspective, the political perspective, California is leading the change in the world. The regulatory process is under way, and we are literally at the center of where these policy initiatives are launched.”

Among Bingham McCutcheon’s recent cases is the $2 billion acquisition of Ryerson Inc. by Platinum Equity LLC.


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