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Capitol Weekly's Top 100 List, Part I ( & Part II)
Capitol Weekly ^ | 4/16/09

Posted on 04/23/2009 11:37:49 AM PDT by NormsRevenge

Lists like the one you are about to read are a lot like most hairpieces: They’re probably a bad idea, but they do get a lot of people talking.

Capitol Weekly spent weeks talking to top California political professionals to get a consensus on the top influence peddlers, power brokers and political players in California. The list is varied – there are Democrats and Republicans; labor leaders and captains of industry; people who are little known outside of Sacramento circles, and international superstars.

One thing you will not find on this list is elected officials. We debated whether to include politicians on our list, but ultimately decided that would be too easy. We were looking for people whose political skill and influence transcends the position they hold.

Another thing that jumped out at us was the lack of Latino representation on this list in proportion to the amount of political power Latinos wield in California, and their growing clout inside the Capitol and around the state. That is due, in large part, to our decision not to include elected officials. If we had, there would have been many more Latino names included.

In this week’s edition we have the first 50-person installment of the Top 100. Next week, we will provide Part II with an additional 50 names.

And by the way, why 100? It’s Capitol Weekly’s way of celebrating April as the 100th month of the new century. Okay, it’s a stretch but we’ll use any excuse for a party.

Certainly there will be much debate about the names on this list – and even more debate about those who are not. While we think we can make a solid case for everybody that we’ve included, our great fear in producing this list is that we are missing someone who obviously belongs. But hey, that’s what the comments section is for. And while we’re not fishing for sympathy, you should know that compiling this list was much harder than it looks.

There was one moment of horror in putting this together: One likely candidate asked us if slots on the Top 100 were for sale, which apparently is the practice with some lists of notables. The answer is an emphatic No.

Be sure to let us know what you think of our list so far and look for the second installment in next week’s paper. Offer your comments below the published list, or send us a letter to the editor. And for those of you who didn’t make the cut this time around, hey, there’s always next year…

1. Susan Kennedy, chief of staff, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger If there was a consensus Number One on our list, it would be Susan Kennedy. The former PUC commissioner was called in by Gov. Schwarzenegger after the 2005 special election debacle. Kennedy quickly guided the governor to reelection, and became the center of power in California government. She has the ear and the trust of the governor, and is not afraid to step on a few toes along the way.

2. Jerry Perenchio If you ever want to feel inadequate about your life’s accomplishments, spend a minute or two reading Jerry Perenchio’s bio. He promoted Muhammad Ali fights, represented Marlon Brando, and owned the largest Spanish-speaking television network in the country. And everything he touched seemingly turned to gold. Perenchio, now 78, remains a major donor to Republican causes, and recently chipped in $1.5 million to pass the measures on the May 19 ballot.

3. Donald Bren, chairman, Irvine Co. Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., is a force in state politics as a major player in land development politics. Bren has also been a pivotal member of the New Majority, a group of well-funded, Orange County Republicans that is more socially moderate than many of their Republican counterparts. He also has been a major booster for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

4. Maria Shriver, California First Lady More than just a political spouse, Shriver is part of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s inner circle and a political force in her own right. She is the unabashed Democrat who, along with Kennedy, transformed the Schwarzenegger administration after 2005.

5. Eli Broad, partner, KB Home If money talks, then everybody listens to Eli Broad, the billionaire L.A.-area developer who puts money into political and charitable causes. He’s bankrolled numerous causes over the years and has mentored governors. In the 2007-08 election cycle he spent nearly $1 million, including $100,000 on a statewide redistricting reform measure and another $100,000 to ease traffic congestion in Los Angeles. He is a major funder of EdVoice, which continues to push for third-path education reform and take on the teachers unions. He has given millions of dollars to local universities and art programs, including $25 million for stem-cell research, and $100 million each to Harvard and MIT.

6. Steve Merksamer, partner, Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor Steve Merksamer, former chief of staff to Gov. George Deukmejian, is one of the state’s most influential political-legal players. His 16-lawyer firm is involved in a myriad of political issues and dispenses legal advice and political strategy to a national and international big-business clientele. One specialty: The intricacies of financial disclosure and campaign donation laws.

7. Michael Peevey, President, California Public Utilities Commission As head of the five-member CPUC, Peevey has powers that most elected officials in California can only dream of. In essence, Peevey has taxing authority, since the CPUC sets rates for investor-owned utilities. And while he suffers the occasional legislative setback, Peevey has proven to be one of the most effective and enduring bureaucrats in California. He and his wife, Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, make quite the California power couple, but that’s another list altogether.

8. Mary Nichols, chairwoman, California Air Resources Board With the passage of AB 32 in 2006, and a governor determined to make an environmental legacy for himself, Mary Nichols has become arguably the most powerful regulator in the state. And as the law to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions continues to phase in, the role for the ARB, and for Nichols, will only increase. Nichols enjoys support from many Democrats, and was first appointed to the job she now holds by former Gov. Jerry Brown. It’s easy to imagine Nichols staying in her current post should Brown get his old job back next year.

9. Aaron Read, lobbyist, Aaron Read & Associates Read is one of those Capitol figures who is more than just a lobbyist – he is a power broker. In addition to building one of the largest lobbying firms in the state, Read has become a critical deal-maker inside the Capitol halls. Read’s clients include law enforcement groups, doctors and local governments. It’s a pretty good bet that when Read himself is walking the Capitol halls, there’s some kind of big deal going down.

10. Joe Nuñez, Associate Executive Director of Governmental Relations, California Teachers Association It’s hard to know exactly who from CTA to place on this list. Is it David Sanchez? Scott Day? Ultimately, we decided on Nuñez, a former state board of education member who has been a persistent critic of the governor. But all that is water under the bridge. Schwarzenegger reappointed Nunez to the state board in 2007 (though Senate Republicans killed his reconfirmation) and now, CTA and the governor are standing arm in arm heading into a special election ballot.

11. Courtni Pugh, executive Director, SEIU California State Council If Courtni Pugh was looking for an easy new job, this wasn’t it. Since taking over for Dean Tipps in 2008, SEIU has been in the middle of an ongoing war with United Healthcare Workers, a battle to renegotiate state contracts, lingering budget fights, and deep divisions over what to do about the May 19 special election. Now, Pugh is ready to lead the charge against the governor, and others in the labor community who have signed off on the measures on the May 19 ballot. Welcome to Sacramento.

12. Allan Zaremberg, president, California Chamber of Commerce As a former chief legislative advisor to Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, Allan Zaremberg knows his way around the Capitol. And as the president of the state’s largest and most influential business organization, Zaremberg continues to wield influence in state government. The Chamber has been a major backer of Gov. Schwarzenegger, standing with the governor during the recent budget standoff, despite a revolt from the Republican Party’s right wing.

13. Jim Brulte, California Strategies Over the last 15 years, there has been no more enduring force in California Republican politics than Jim Brulte. He has been the leader of his caucus in both legislative houses. He was the California point person for then-Gov. George W. Bush when Bush launched his presidential bid in 2000. He was a mentor to numerous staffers in the building, including Finance Director Mike Genest. And he continues to be a sounding board for the governor, and wanna-be governors alike. His mentorship of Steve Poizner has helped the Insurance Commissioner earn GOP bona fides, and Brulte’s stock can only rise if Poizner can find a way to win the GOP nomination.

14. Richard Blum, chairman and president, Blum Capital Maria Shriver is not the only political spouse on our Top 100 list. The husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also the head of a major equity investment management firm and a UC Regent.

15. Bob White, partner, California Strategies White, the former chief of staff to Gov. Pete Wilson, is the man who brought the super firm to Sacramento. And there have been times when the California Strategies office has felt like the kitchen cabinet for the Schwarzenegger administration. In some ways, the firm is the post-partisan, private-sector doppelganger to Schwarzenegger’s ideologically diverse inner circle. The collection of Republican and Democratic powerbrokers, media spinmeisters and strategists under the firm’s umbrella is impressive by any measure.

16. Bill Devine, lobbyist, AT&T Perhaps no single company has had as much legislative success in the Capitol over the last five years than AT&T. And their chief lobbyist, Bill Divine, has amassed quite a track record when it comes to legislative victories. Divine helped shepherd through a plan to deregulate cable service in 2006 that is arguably the most significant deregulation bill in California since the state’s flirtation with a deregulated energy market.

17. Kip Lipper, staff to Sen. Darrell Steinberg By all measures, Lipper is the most influential Capitol staffer on environmental issues. His influence is so pronounced that colleagues’ refer to him as “Senator Lipper.” Whether it’s greenhouse gas emissions or renewable energy, if a major piece of environmental legislation moves through the Capitol, it will inevitably have Lipper’s fingerprints on it.

18. George Soares, partner, Kahn Soares & Conway Soares’s client list reads like a who’s who in the world of California agriculture – from sheep to walnuts. If there’s a major policy involving farming or agriculture, odds are that several of his clients are in the middle of it, and Soares is in the room helping to broker the deal.

19. Gale Kaufman, Kaufman Campaign Consultants. Gale Kaufman has been a legislative staffer, and has run numerous candidate campaigns. But in the era of term limits, she has become a pillar of Democratic politics. While she has scaled back her legislative candidate portfolio, as counselor to the California Teachers Association, she has been intimately involved in initiative campaigns for the last five years, including this May’s special election.

20. Peter Douglas, executive director, California Coastal Commission People joke that there are four branches of government in California – the legislative, the judicial, the executive and the Coastal Commission. The commission has done battle with state and local authorities alike, and often emerged victorious. In fact, the Legislature moved to clip the commission’s wings a few years back, altering the appointed terms of the commissioners. But it is Douglas, who does not have a vote on the board, who is the commission’s real political power. For a generation, Douglas has taken on the role as guardian of the state’s 1,100 miles of coastline, and has become a Mandarin of California politics.

TOPICS: Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; influence; peddlers
I only dropped in 20 of the first 50 1-50, the rest are at the site.

Capitol Weekly's Top 100 List, Part II 51-100

1 posted on 04/23/2009 11:37:49 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
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