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Thursday, August 22, 2019


Richard Markuson

Capitol Weekly's Top 100
Capitol Weekly is a publication of Open California, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2012 to inform, enlighten and educate Californians about public policy and state governance, and to provide a platform for engagement with public officials, advocates and political interests.
One of their more interesting projects is an annual listing of the top influencers in Sacramento. And no, dear reader, yours truly is not on the list.
Fittingly, at the top of the list is Ann O'Leary, Governor Gavin Newsom's chief of staff. Several other staff follow - but number five on the list, and the first "non-government" name - is Robbie Hunter.
Robbie Hunter, an ironworker and descendant of a guy who worked on the Titanic, is always high on this list, and deservedly so. His outfit - the State Building and Construction Trades Council, or BCTC - celebrated a major victory in November when they and their allies pushed hard to beat back Proposition 6, the attempt to repeal California's new gasoline tax increase that initially was backed by a narrow majority of voters. The $5 billion tax hike means money for big-ticket construction jobs for thousands of workers at the prevailing wage. BCTC is affiliated with 160 unions with 350,000 members - and that's right up Hunter's alley. Hunter was a go-to person for Jerry Brown on building support for infrastructure funding, and he likely will play a similar function for Newsom, with whom he is fast building a relationship. One veteran Capitol watcher we spoke to said BCTC has become the single most important labor force in California, above even the California Teachers Association and the SEIU. Maybe. But money, jobs and politics are a potent mix in Sacramento, and Hunter stirs the pot.
The only two other business folk in the top ten are Allen Zaremberg of the California Chamber of Commerce (8) and Bill Devine with AT&T (10).
Other notable influencers are:
Scott Wetch (#59): Organized labor is heavily represented on this list, and one of the reasons is Wetch, who represents union interests first, last and always. His clients include the Building and Construction Trades Council (see #5), State Pipe Trades Council and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, among others. Wetch has earned a reputation as a notorious bill-killer if legislation coming out of the Capitol threatens his constituents' interests. He worked at the Capitol for over 12 years prior to teaming up with his now-retired lobbying partner Art Carter.
Cesar Diaz (#83): The longtime legislative and political director of the California Building and Construction Trades Council. The Council represents blue-collar workers ranging from boilermakers to bricklayers, and they stand to do well as those much-needed infrastructure repairs and new construction get underway. Diaz was formerly deputy legislative director of the Council and before that was senior policy consultant in the lieutenant governor's office. He works to maintain that McCarthy-style feistiness on behalf of those blue collars.
So what does it mean to be on the list? As Anthony York, the former editor of Capitol Weekly put it: "... these lists ... offer a mirror of our little world, filled with that intriguing stew of public service, ideological force and narcissistic drive. That is what makes our political community the frustrating and exhilarating amalgamation that it is." But for the merit-shop community, it is a cautionary note that the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council is number five on the list - and the first person not in the Newsom administration (at least not officially). You can see the whole list  here.