There are some lists of names that are absolutely crucial – jury pools, test results, graduations.
There are some that are strictly for fun – contest winners, door-prize recipients and gift clubs.
And then there’s Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List, which is a little bit of both.
Nothing is more subjective than a list that purports to be objective, but we make no apologies.
This is our description of people who have a significant impact on state policy, politics and governance. It excludes elected officials, which is why someone like Matt Rexroad, a Yolo County supervisor, isn’t on the list.
It is dynamic and changes from year to year, which is why you’ll notice that some who were on last year aren’t on this time, or are lower or higher in the ranking.
It includes a few journalists, grudgingly, and includes some spin doctors, even more grudgingly. The heart of the list is the group of people who we think define policy, move political money around, lead campaigns, educate their colleagues and opponents and successfully pressure institutions.
Finally, we try to keep security on the Top 100 List tight until it’s released, but as we were putting the finishing touches on it at a Curtis Park coffee shop, a journalist and his wife stumbled into our meetings two days in a row. You just can’t keep anything a secret in this town.
Anyway, today we offer 51 through 100 of the Top 100 List. Next Monday, we’ll provide 1-50.
The envelope please ….
51. Ann Notthoff
As the Natural Resources Defense Council’s head of California advocacy, Ann Notthoff seems to be everywhere at once. From the recent ban on shark fins to the ARB’s cap-and-trade rules to the limits on greenhouse gases, Notthoff has figured somewhere near the center of every fray – and sits at the table when the final deals are cut. She sponsored legislation that set up the first network of marine reserves in the nation and later worked to curb carbon emissions from automobiles -- also landmark legislation.
52. Mike Jimenez
Mike Jimenez is the president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which was founded in 1957 but drew little public attention until more than two decades later, when crime-conscious Californians started expanding the state’s prison system. As the system grew, so did the CCPOA: It now represents more than 30,000 members who include the officers that guard the prisoners and some prison support staff. The CCPOA, an aggressive union and with well-financed political coffers, regularly goes head-to-head with the state because the correctional officers’ budget depends largely on the volatile General Fund.
53. Bob White
Elder statesman Bob White, Gov. Pete Wilson’s former chief of staff, is something of an institution now and casts such a wide net that it’s a little hard to figure out what he’s up to. His several outfits, by whatever name, do lobbying, communications, strategy, crisis management, campaign handling, corporate imagery – you name it. Sometimes, it seems like everybody works for, directly or indirectly, Bob White, including Winston Hickox, Rusty Areias, Jason Kinney, Jim Brulte and many, many others.
54. Dave Kieffer
When you see those hordes of people in purple shirts marching at the Capitol, the guy behind them is SEIU California executive director David Kieffer. His union — healthcare workers and university employees — should be a major player after having helped elect Jerry Brown as governor. Brown has pledged to curb retiree healthcare costs, but Kieffer and his people will be at the table, including this year as Brown's tax initiative faces voters.
55. Jack Kavanagh
Jack Kavanagh is the editor and publisher of Rough & Tumble, which since its founding in 1997 has developed into the premier online aggregator of California political news. Kavanagh started the site to help educate staffers at his former TV station about political events. But it immediately caught the interest of a byline-happy Press Corps looking for exposure and validation - and being listed on R&T offers a bit of both. It also means boost in traffic – a key concern for online-only sites. Kavanagh has inspired any number of news aggregators, but first to last, his site is still the best, both in content and design.
56. Steve Maviglio
Inside or outside of government, Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio always seems to know what's going on below the surface, whether it's the latest round of Capitol intrigue or a full-blown, public political battle. He worked for Gray Davis, where he built a following of journalists sniffing stories, and he worked in the Assembly leadership, where he did the same thing. He makes little secret of his spin - in fact, he makes that clear up front - but his facts typically are strong enough to carry the day. Plus, he really likes politics. Cool.
57. Shari McHugh
Her firm is small but her reputation is large, and Shari McHugh’s name always pops up when the conversation turns to good lobbyists. Capitol Weekly could fill an entirely separate 100 List with good lobbyists and McHugh is why: McHugh and Associates is a husband-and-wife firm – Gavin McHugh is the husband – that has built a solid client list over 16 years that includes three powerhouses – the prison correctional officers, the manufacturers and the credit unions, among many others. Fellow lobbyist Dawn Koepke makes it a threesome.
58. Bev Hansen
In the world of state politics and lobbying, it’s been there, done that for Bev Hansen: She’s a former Assembly member and legislative staffer, and now she's a partner at Lang, Hansen, O'Malley and Miller, a heavyweight lobbying firm with clients that include health services, bankers, gaming interests, truckers, labor, even the San Diego County Water Authority and AFSCME. Quite a lineup.
59. Cassandra Pye
Cassandra Pye is not easy to classify. On one level, the senior director at APCO Worldwide gives advice to corporate executives on everything from crisis communications to marketing food products. But on another, she tracks the political landscape and helps leverage policy and political victories for the business interests on whose behalf she argues. The intersection of politics and business is Pye’s turf: She is a former VP and political director of the California Chamber of Commerce and served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
60. Courtni Pugh
Courtni Pugh, who was just named as the new executive director of SEIU Local 99, served as SEIU’s state political director, a major gig in a state where the powerful union is embroiled in battles, and not always with outsiders. A former L.A. Times newsie once described her as the "sharpest labor strategist I met" during a brief stint covering labor, and others in the Capitol clearly agree. In conversations about the top labor players, her name is always mentioned in the top tier. SEIU is a fundamental Democratic ally, and a key goal of the union is to make sure Jerry Brown doesn't forget it.
61. Greg Campbell
He’s under 40, but Greg Campbell has been around the Capitol for 20 years and he‘s already served in leadership positions for numerous Assembly speakers. Those include current Speaker John Pérez, who named Campbell as his chief of staff late last year. Campbell is sort of a renaissance man of policy: He’s played a key role in state budgets, and has handled workers’ comp, health care, pensions and the minimum wage, among others.
62. Robin Johansen
Robin Johansen is a founding partner of Remcho, Johansen and Purcell, known in the Capitol as the "Remcho law firm" after the late Joe Remcho, a political battler and Democrat who represented the party in and out of court. The firm has been involved in most of the major Democratic legal fights during the past three decades, including redistricting, political reform issues and initiatives. Johansen is at the center of those fights – most of which she’s won.
63. Lisa Gasperoni
If anybody gets to do high-fives this year after the Nov. 6 election, it may be Lisa Gasperoni. She’s the Senate Leader’s political director and the Senate might --- maybe, possibly – get a Democratic super-majority, something that has been a Democratic dream for decades. If the Dems win big, Gasperoni will have a played a pivotal role. Her basic job is to protect the simple Democratic majority, but if the Democrats win a two-thirds majority, she’ll become an instant legend in the close world of the Capitol.
64. Rachelle Chong
A lawyer and former member of the Federal Communications Commission and state Public Utilities Commission, Rachelle Chong now serves as Comcast’s regional vice president of government affairs for California. Corporate titles are tricky – Comcast’s are no exception – but the bottom line is that Chong supervises all aspects of governmental affairs activity, including cable and telecommunications policy. That’s a pretty big bite. And Chong, who is from Stockton, is no stranger to the jungle warfare of the Capitol: At the PUC she was criticized by consumer groups for being too pro-industry and was denied a confirmation hearing in the Senate. But any scars apparently have healed.
65. George Skelton
The best columnists aren’t predictable, repetitive or doctrinaire, and the L.A. Times’ George Skelton passes the test. His columns are tight and grouchy. He often surprises readers, as when he wrote recently that he favored hunting down bears with dogs and drones, and said the governor should sign a bill prohibiting people from carrying rifles and shotguns in public places. “If gun worshipers won't use common sense voluntarily,” Skelton wrote, “the rest of us should force them to.” Skelton has covered state politics since Pat Brown was governor and he’s been at the Times for four decades. It shows in his columns.
66. Chuck Bell
If Robin Johansen is at the core of the Democratic legal machine, then Chuck Bell (with partners Tom Hiltachk and Colleen McAndrews) is at the heart if the GOP's court strategy. If there's a legal battle involving Republicans, then Bell is either leading the charge, defending against the enemy or offering sought-after advice to everyone else. Bell has the good lawyer's knack of explaining even intricate issues with clarity and simplicity, and if you think that's not a valuable skill, you try it sometime.
67. Steve Merksamer
At the intersection of law and politics, Steve Merksamer is there. Merksamer, the staff chief to former Gov. George Deukmejian and an enduring partner in the Nielsen Merksamer law firm, knows the Capitol inside and out. He is courted for his legal savvy as well as his political knowledge -- a potent combination, as his blue-chip client list attests. A former top aide to Deukmejian when the latter served as attorney general, Merksamer has been a force in the Capitol for four decades.
68. Barry Brokaw
Barry Brokaw cut his political teeth at the hands of a master – Sen. Daniel Boatwright of Concord – and he used his knowledge of the Capitol and politics to build a successful lobbying business, Sacramento Advocates. His eclectic, blue-chip client list includes Microsoft, Wal-Mart, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the American Red Cross, the Delta Coalition, Western Union, and many others. At the end of a legislative session, when the deals are getting cut or falling through, Brokaw invariably is somewhere close by.
69. Alice Huffman
Alice Huffman is president of the NAACP in California and a shrewd political player – a combination that gives her influence, particularly when it comes to endorsements. Huffman is a familiar figure in California, a hard-ball political player who asks for no quarter, and gives none. She once represented the California Teachers Association, so she knows to move money around for political leverage. She’s also not afraid to buck the party line – which sometimes makes her fellow Democrats nervous.
70. Greg Schmidt
Greg Schmidt is the secretary of the Senate, which means he is the top staff executive in the upper house. That, in turn, means he manages hundreds of Senate employees on one hand and answers directly to the Senate leadership on the other. It's not an easy balancing act, but Schmidt carries it off, because he is fast and detail driven, in part because he knows his house from top to bottom. Schmidt is the staff man who gets things done and runs the house smoothly.
71. Jon Waldie
Schmidt's counterpart in the Assembly is Jon Waldie and his task is similar: He manages the Assembly staff, enforces the administrative rules and tracks such things as office space, employee benefits and the endless hassles of managing a political environment. But he also has sharp political instincts -- a necessity when it comes to heading off embarrassing staff blowouts and making sure that what's private stays private. Those can include personnel issues, lawsuits, job-related complaints and the like. Waldie’s job – and he’s a master at it – is to keep the ship sailing on course.
72. Daniel Zingale
As a senior vice president for programs at the California Endowment, Daniel Zingale plays a key role in bringing health-linked issues to the attention of the public and of policy makers. He’s also something of an insider’s insider and his resume shows it: He served both Govs. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in high positions, and he was Maria Shriver’s chief of staff. According to many in the Capitol, he played a key role in bringing Susan Kennedy into the Capitol as Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff – the most important position on the governor’s staff.
73. Liz Snow
To the general public, the California Dental Association is not seen as a major Capitol political player, but indeed it is – in spades. It’s been around since 1870 and represents some 25,000 dentists. One of the reasons it wields such influence is executive director Liz Snow, who is in the middle of the dentists’ political battles and who holds sway over their powerful PAC. Snow left the CDA a while back to work for the building industry, but the CDA without Snow seemed odd somehow – and it was. She returned to her familiar stomping ground.
74. Dan Weitzman
Fundraiser extraordinaire Dan Weitzman is a Democratic political junkie to his fingertips, he’s handled the top folks for years – leaders in both houses and a select group of up-and-comers with whom he has relationships. Successful political fundraising requires first-rate networking, aggression mixed with deft social skills, a thorough knowledge of politics and a good sense of the bottom line. Weitzman has them all and is a key – but largely unknown – player in the Capitol’s political battles. Best office in Sacramento, too: An old, used-brick enclave on O Street near Vallejo’s with outside wooden stairs.
75. Christy Bouma
Christy Bouma, who owns Capitol Connection, is the top lobbyist for the California Professional Firefighters, an aggressive, well-financed labor group and a top player in Democratic politics. Capitol Connection has done work for others, including the California School Employees Association -- a nice fit, since Bouma was a teacher for 11 years. But her principal role is to advocate for CPF, which is more than a full-time job. We've always liked CPF – full disclosure: our editor's daughter works there – because they like fights. Since the Capitol is nothing but fights lately, CPF fits right in. And this year, the fight his huge: CPF is leading the charge against Proposition 32.
76. Darius Anderson
Darius Anderson rose to prominence during former Gov. Gray Davis’ administration, handling fund-raising chores, then expanded his contacts and influence dramatically. When Schwarzenegger came in following the 2003 recall, many in the Capitol figured the days of Anderson’s Platinum Advisors were numbered. In fact, he has thrived mightily since, has offices in Sacramento, San Francisco (home office), Orange County and Washington, D.C. His interests now include real estate, trade groups, communications and lobbying, among others.
77. Bob Hertzberg
Bob “Hugs” Hertzberg is one of those hyper-kinetic, Type-A personalities who love politics for its own sake. He’s a former Assembly speaker, an L.A. lawyer and a go-to guy for his ideas on political reform. Amazingly, he was a sort of adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he continues to be an insider Democrat with his fingers in lots of pies. He also seems to be traveling constantly, carries three cell phones and is liable to pop up anytime.
Okay, we try not to list companies instead of people, but we have to do it with McNally/Temple, since both Dick Temple and Ray McNally seem joined at the hip. McNally/Temple has been around for decades and their track record is as substantial as their political client list, which starts with both Presidents Bush, former Gov. Pete Wilson, former Secretary of State Bill Jones in assorted races, and the like. Mostly Republicans. Their corporate client list is dizzying, and even nonpartisan, and includes every truly powerful interest in the Capitol, including the California Teachers Association, Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, the oil marketers and the prison correctional officers.
79. Dan Morain
Dan Morain, formerly of the L.A. Times and, briefly, of the Consumer Attorneys of California, appears in the opinion pages of the Sacramento Bee, and it’s a great gig. He gets to voice his opinion, he gets to break stories and he gets to do real reporting. His specialty at the Times was reporting on the influence of cash on politics, including the governor’s office, and since he left the LAT there has been a vacuum at the heart of the politics-money beat in Sacramento. We miss that reporting.
80. Mike Madrid
Mike Madrid knows the Capitol from inside out, knows Republican Party politics (and Democratic politics, too, for that matter) and, most of all, knows the ins and outs of the state’s relationships with local governments. A long-time representative of the League of California Cities, Madrid now heads Grassroots Lab, a campaign and strategy firm whose newsletters are a must-read for local government types. He recently helped create the nonprofit Leadership California Institute and still advises the League on issues.
81. Jim Brulte
Brulte served in both houses of the Legislature and rose to become the GOP leader in both houses. Now he’s a senior adviser at Bob White’s communications-legal-lobbying-strategy complex, and offers advice on getting new Reeps elected and on helping incumbent Reeps hang on to their jobs. He appears to have emerged unscathed from a political scandal near his home turf involving local issues, and he is considered to have one of the best political minds in the state.
82. Paula Treat
When the word “tribal lobbyist” comes up, this is the woman who pops up in many people’s minds. As the longtime advocate for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, Treat is a major player on all things dealing with tribes and gaming, and she often plays a significant role in other issues as well, such as fighting an attempt this year to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act. As a behind-the-scenes player, she provides a counterweight to Pechanga’s rival gaming tribe, the Morongo Band, and its online poker views. Legislation authorizing online poker was blocked this year, but it is all but certain to return next year.
83. Tom Adams
As president of the California League of Conservation Voters, Tom Adams is a key player in environmental politics and not one who is especially well-known to the public. The CLCV is nonpartisan, but the group is aggressive in organizing public opinion behind environmental programs, including walking the streets, ringing doorbells, knocking on doors and talking to the electorate. The CLCV’s environmental scorecard is a significant event for those who follow environmental issues. The
group’s board is impressive, too, such as V. John White, Anne Notthoff, Carl Guardino and Steve Blank.
84. Dan Walters
The Bee’s Dan Walters has been in or around the Capitol and state political reporting for some 35 years and his current work – he came to the Bee in 1984 from the old Sacramento Union – are a must-read for Capitol political junkies. He sees politics as a blood sport and he delights in detailing the winners and losers. To us, he’s more right than left – much more – but not nearly to the degree that he was earlier in his career. A former editor of small town papers who learned his craft on the police beat, his columns tend to be brisk and pithy. He also breaks news and offers it up in clear language – which isn’t easy.
85. Rick Simpson
The most complex, largest single piece of the state budget involves education. Relatively few people get it and even fewer can explain it clearly to others. But Rick Simpson can,
which is why he’s been the go-to education adviser to Assembly speakers for years, including the current speaker, John Perez.
86. Amy Brown
Brown is a player when it comes to retirement in California, both in her work as a governmental advocate for DiMare, Van Vleck & Brown LLC, where she represents the California Retired County Employees Association, and as publisher of the online newsletter The Public Retirement Journal. She also used to work for the League of Cities, and the realignment plan that was pushed by another Brown, Jerry, made that expertise even more valuable.
87. Andrew Acosta
Andrew Acosta is a top Sacramento political strategist who is no stranger to difficult campaigns. His client list has included such statewide candidates as Bill Lockyer for treasurer and Steve Westly for governor, and he successfully ran a tough Mike Machado contest for the state Senate. He’s done issue campaigns dealing with the lottery, community colleges, renewable energy, the state Democratic Party and the Latino Policy Coalition. This year, he’s doing the Yes on 38 campaign, which would raise money for public schools. He’s also flying solo: His former partner, Roger Salazar, went recently to Mercury Public Affairs, so for a while Acosta will be doing double duty.
88. Moira Topp
Moira Topp’s been in the Capitol – in the Horseshoe, in fact, under Schwarzenegger, and on the legislative side, too – and worked for the Chamber as a lobbyist, but she since has gone to the blue-chip lobbying firm, Sloat, Higgins, Jensen and Associates, which has Republican-friendly clients. As before, she specializes in transportation and environmental issues, and with everything from high-speed rail to the fight over CEQA, she’s had her work cut out for her.
89. Patricia Megason
When one thinks of counties’ advocacy, the California State Association of Counties comes to mind. But there’s another group, too: The 38-year-old Regional Council of Rural Counties, which is involved in some of the hottest issues of the Capitol, including curbing greenhouse gas emissions, land use restrictions, transportation, water rights, growth and the like. The fights are usually uphill, but nobody said it would be easy. And at the center of RCRC is Patricia Megason, the group’s executive vice president, who helps translate the will of RCRC’s governing board into action. And that’s no easy chore.
90. Chris McKenzie
Somewhere, somehow, there’s always a fight going on involving the cities, and the fights over the past two years over redevelopment agencies and realignment are prime examples. The redevelopment agencies were abolished by Brown, but the fight isn’t over: Legislation simmers in the Capitol to wangle funding for worthy redevelopment projects – low income housing, for example – and the success of the attempt may rest in the end on the clout of Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities. It ain’t over till it’s over.
91. Jon Fleischman
Among California Republicans, Jon Fleischman holds a special place. He’s their premier state blogger with The FlashReport, which he founded in 2001, weighing in with news, aggregation, opinion and social media to get his message out. He’s got grass-roots campaign experience, he’s an entrepreneur with a consulting group, he’s served as a local and state GOP official, he breaks stories and he’s a thorn in the side of Democrats. He also is not shy about going after fellow Republicans if he thinks they have strayed. The fact that the Republicans are dwindling in California may have affected Fleischman’s reach but not his volume.
92. Jason Kinney
Jason Kinney worked in Gray Davis’ communications shop and since then he has become a partner in Bob White’s strategy and consulting group. Kinney is a top political adviser to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and he’s close to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg. Kinney is known best in the Capitol and among reporters for his political connections, but he’s also advised any number of the corporate clients that Bob White’s outfit attracts, including AT&T. Kinney also knows the relationships between strategists, candidates and clients, and is a walking encyclopedia of what’s going on beyond the public view.
David Townsend is a long-time 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. In 2010, Townsend had a big piece of the unsuccessful $46 million campaign by PG&E to make it harder for locals to set up their own municipal utility districts.
94. Anthony Russo
Tony Russo is a managing partner of California Policy Advisors, but before that he was a senior VP of corporate affairs for the Irvine Company, a long-time force in California politics – its chief, Donald Bren, is a major player -- and a source of support for top-drawer Republican candidates. Russo has been in and around political strategy for more than two decades. Before going to Irvine, he was at the McNally/Temple political consulting firm and handled a number of legislative and congressional campaigns.
95. Rusty Areias
Rusty Areias, a former Assembly member and Parks and Rec. director under Gray Davis, is a familiar Capitol figure. He knows the pressure points of power and he is close enough to Brown to have held high-profile fundraisers for the governor at Brown’s old address at 1400 N, where Areias maintains a residence. Insiders say Brown sought Areias’ advice on a number of issues, which gives the former Democratic lawmaker leverage that he didn’t have under Schwarzenegger. Areias’ wife, Julie Sandino, is one of Sacramento’s top fund-raisers, which makes the two a definite power couple.
96. Dan Jacobson
Fighting for environmental safeguards isn’t easy – the opponents invariably are bigger and better financed – but Legislative Director Dan Jacobson and his crew at Environment California are punching above their weight. He played a key role in pushing for the California Clean Energy Act, and he leads EC’s policy agenda before the Legislature and Congress. This year he was in the thick of the fight to block a weakening of CEQA, and he earlier led the effort to get the state to adopt a Green Chemistry Initiative.
97. 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 new, voter-approved process of drawing political boundaries. A detail maven – he’s got a master’s in urban planning and econometrics (gasp!) from USC – and he’s been involved in numerous campaigns up and down the state. He also is a killer bicyclist.
98. Donna Brownsey
The senior VP of Sacramento Advocates is behind lots of touchy-feely sounding causes: adoption, breast cancer, dispute resolution. Don’t be fooled. She joined the lobbying corps 18 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.
99. Mark DiCamillo
Mark DiCamillo is the heart of the Field Poll, which after its founding in 1948 quickly became the state's premier political pollster. DiCamillo learned his craft from Mervin Field himself, and in the dicey world of gauging public opinion, DiCamillo stands at the top. He has corporate clients as well, but his passion is for political polling. During the heat of a major campaign, the Field Poll provides the reliable data that fuels debate, assesses the candidates' chances and analyzes the electorate. "When's the next Field Poll?" is probably the single-most common refrain from political junkies during a tight race.
100. Mark Baldassare
The "other Mark" in the world of political polling is Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit, independent think tank that rivals the Field Poll in its ability to assess the public's mood. PPIC polls are reliable and extensive, and they offer a welcome menu of hard data amid the hype and fury of political campaigns. PPIC also has a deep research and academic component that Field lacks, but it is the political surveying that makes PPIC such a standout. And more: PPIC also has a Sacramento operation staffed by Dave Lesher, a former L.A. Times and California Journal newsie.