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Jesse Unruh made this remark about state contractors who may have been wavering about giving money to his campaigns: “What I say to these people is, ‘We’ve got a certain amount of business to give. I’ve got a campaign to run. If I have to pick and choose, I’m going to pick my friends.’” Unruh, most historians agree, was the man who transformed the job of state treasurer from a government backwater into a political and financial powerhouse. And throughout his 12-year tenure as California’s chief financial officer, one of his good friends — at least in terms of his campaigns — was Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Orrick retained its status as bond counsel of choice throughout Unruh’s tenure, and benefited as Unruh moved the treasurer’s office from a relatively passive player in the investment community to a Wall Street force. In return, Orrick was one of the many law firms, underwriters and investment banks that responded generously to Unruh’s campaign solicitations. From 1983 to 1986, according to campaign reports, the firm gave $30,000 to Unruh’s campaigns — more than any other law firm. Unruh, state political veterans agree, saw that he could leverage the lucrative fees paid to the attorneys and bankers who handled bonds into campaign cash — and he did so openly and actively. “My impression is that Unruh was the first, or one of the first anyway, state treasurers in the United States to systematically approach bond counsel and others for contributions,” said Robert Stern, author of the Political Reform Act of 1974, ex-general counsel of the Fair Political Practices Commission, and president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles think tank. “Jesse Unruh knew how to take a very obscure post and make it a fund-raising machine,” Stern said. And woe unto those who didn’t follow through. Unruh, according to a number of published accounts of his days as treasurer, wasn’t afraid of handing out punishment to wayward contractors — simply by giving the work to others. As one lawyer who was a senior partner at Orrick during the Unruh era rather diplomatically puts it: “Partners didn’t really like it � but if they didn’t [give] they would be at a competitive disadvantage.” “Unruh’s genius was demonstrated in a lot of ways. One of them was in how he consolidated power and drew it to the treasurer’s office,” said Roger Davis, longtime chair of Orrick’s public finance practice and one of the lawyers at the firm who worked with Unruh. Often referred to as the “Big Daddy” of California politics, Unruh died in 1987 at age 64 — but his model for the treasurer’s office didn’t die with him. Every California treasurer since has solicited donations from the lawyers who handle the state’s bond issues. And despite questions about the practice from political reformers, legislators and the media, Orrick has always been among the biggest contributors. “Money,” as Unruh famously said, “is the mother’s milk of politics.” And that fact, politicians, bond lawyers and financial industry players say, hasn’t changed a bit.

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