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Rockers Don Henley, Courtney Love and Beck brought their star power to the California capital in recent months, looking to persuade lawmakers to loosen the recording industry’s grip on music contracts. Creating a media buzz is one way they hope to further their agenda. Darius Anderson is the other. A Democratic insider and the chief fund raiser for Gov. Gray Davis’ successful 1998 gubernatorial campaign, Anderson quickly cashed in on his role and has become a major lobbying presence in Sacramento. In addition to the rock-and-roll crowd, Anderson’s seven-person shop, Platinum Advisors, also represents Pacific Telesis Group, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Microsoft Corp. In 2001, three years after the election of Davis — the first Democrat in the governor’s mansion in 16 years — Anderson’s shop pulled in more than $3 million in lobbying revenue. That makes it the third most lucrative of California’s 300 or so registered lobbying organizations, according to the California secretary of state’s office. Kahl/Pownall Advocates topped the list in 2001, as it has for the past several years, bringing in $4.3 million. Also per usual, none of the large California law firms that have invested in a lobbying practice managed to crack the list of leaders. Last year, California’s top 10 lobby firms had combined revenue of almost $28 million, which puts them on track to easily exceed the $48 million they were paid in the previous two-year reporting period. Most of the new money came from the energy sector. Enveloped in a power crisis, the state’s utilities and out-of-state wholesale energy providers spent $19.1 million on lobbying in 2001, compared with $8.5 million the year before. Southern California Edison, looking for a legislative bailout for its collapse — a bailout still tied up in the courts — reported lobbying expenses of $7.8 million. Anderson says success in Sacramento is simply about being on one’s toes. “You need to know the issues and have a sense of the politics,” says Anderson, who describes himself as part of a new generation of Sacramento lobbyists — younger and more aggressive about getting business than the familiar players. Perhaps that’s why musicians turned to him to push for SB 1246, the bill by state Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, that would repeal a recording industry perk allowing companies to keep musicians under contract for longer than the terms of most other personal-service contracts. But clearly, his connections also count heavily. Since Davis became governor, Anderson’s clients have contributed close to $1 million to the governor’s war chest. Some rivals see Anderson as little more than an opportunist who uses campaign contributions to get the ear of the governor. “He would not exist without that connection,” says a Sacramento lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When a power center can be accessed by one individual … that means a lot to an interest group and they’ll retain them.” Anderson’s rapid rise obviously ruffles some feathers, and it flies in the face of tradition in a town where relationships between politicians and lobbyists often go back decades. But Sacramento has been changing in recent years. Since the passage in 1991 of legislative term limits — which restrict Assembly members to six years in office and state senators to eight — lobbying has moved beyond the old-boy system that was closed to outsiders. Now advocates steeped in the trends and technicalities of their clients’ businesses ply their trade before a pack of elected officials in constant flux. “The biggest change these days is you really have to know the issues,” says Aaron Read, a lobbyist for 33 years whose firm ranked sixth in 2001 revenue with $2.7 million. “These new members, they need information.” Today, many lobbyists say, media relations, grass-roots organizing and committee presentation counts for more than personal political relationships. Having highballs at Frank Fat’s — the bar and restaurant where state lawmakers made their infamous “napkin deal” in 1987 to provide the tobacco industry protection from liability — is mostly a thing of the past. (The napkin used to map out the deal, though, still hangs in a frame on the restaurant’s wall.) “Things have become more professional,” says Jay Michael, a now-retired lobbyist who spent 43 years on the job and is co-author of the recently published book “Third House: Lobbyists, Money and Power in Sacramento.” “You can’t just go to the opinion leaders anymore. The lobbyists who are succeeding today — the bright, energetic and analytical people — are better at organizing.” Kahl/Pownall Advocates, the top-grossing lobbying firm in town since 1997, was one of the first outfits to understand the changing dynamics brought about by term limits. In 2001, the 16-lobbyist firm made close to $4.3 million representing such clients as Pacificare Health Systems, the California Restaurant Association, and the firm’s bread-and-butter client, the Western States Petroleum Association. The trade association, representing 36 oil producers, refiners, and marketers from the Exxon Mobil Corp. to Alaska Tanker Co., spent almost $1 million lobbying last year on issues such as environmental cleanup regulations and caps on pollution emissions. Kahl/Pownall President Frederick Pownall — who was a partner in the law firm Landels Ripley & Diamond until he formed the lobby shop with partner Michael Kahl in 1996 — says legislative turnover has, in some respects, left lobbyists as the keepers of institutional knowledge at the Capitol. “It’s just human nature to trust the people you know,” says Pownall. But, he says, “Almost by definition, we don’t know who the key people are going to be.” One reason the firm has dominated the Sacramento lobbying scene is because its client contacts were being developed long before Kahl/Pownall was formed. The firm’s roots go back to the Nixon administration, when Kahl — by all accounts the premier lobbyist in Sacramento — was a special assistant to Jack Veneman, the former Nixon campaign manager and California assemblyman who was then serving as the president’s undersecretary of health, education and welfare. It was under Veneman — his daughter Anne is now secretary of agriculture — that Kahl became a key player on environmental issues, forming relationships with environmental groups and oil and chemical companies. Michael, the author and veteran Sacramento lobbyist, says Kahl was far ahead of the curve when he arrived in Sacramento in 1980. “[When dealing with the regulatory agencies] you have to know the facts and you have to have your information,” says Michael. “He won every issue. “He had been operating the way lobbyists operate now back when personal relationships were the only game in town.” Like Anderson’s Platinum Advisors, Aaron Read’s five-person firm, Aaron Read & Associates, was a big winner when Davis — whom Read had known for 25 years — was elected governor. Long known for representing state unions and state professional workers, Read’s clients now include PG&E, Phillips Petroleum Co. and Nuevo Energy Co., California’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company. Read says he tries to get to know lawmakers in their local districts, something that comes naturally to some of his long-standing clients. California Highway Patrol officers, whose union Read represents, are likely to take lawmakers on ride-alongs, as are his firefighter clients. One of Read’s lobbyists, Al Davila, was a CHP officer for 28 years. Another firm with strong Democratic ties, and the only woman-owned firm in the top 10, is Rose & Kindel. Founded more than 14 years ago by Cristina Rose and Maureen Kindel, the firm has put together an experienced staff from the ranks of government, the private sector and academia. Rose is the former legislative coordinator and chief lobbyist for the California Department of Consumer Affairs under Govs. Ronald Reagan and Edmund “Pat” Brown. Kindel is the former president of the Los Angeles public works board and was a member of the city’s 1984 Olympic organizing committee. The firm is one of the few shops to have a full-time L.A. office. Run by Kindel, the branch office allows the firm to work with some members of the state Assembly or Senate even before they reach statewide office, Rose says. Other members of the firm include Michael Gagan, a 20-year legislative veteran who has served as the state’s chief deputy secretary of state and chief deputy treasurer from 1975 to 1983. Robert Burke is an attorney of 30 years who served as political director on Richard Riordan’s successful campaign for Los Angeles mayor in 1994 and was an adviser to retired Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., who himself is now a lobbyist at the D.C. office of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti. Rose & Kindel specializes in public works, health care and transportation issues and lists a number of cities and counties as clients. In 1999 and 2000, the firm earned a total of $4.3 million in revenue. Former Orange County Assemblyman Richard Robinson, the No. 2 lobbyist in 1999-2000 with $5.5 million, saw his firm fall to fifth place in 2001, though revenue remained on the same pace as it did during the previous two-year reporting cycle. The five-person firm represented Southern California Edison at the height of the state’s energy crisis last year, when the utility was hoping for a legislative bailout. It also lobbied on behalf of all five of the Big Five accounting firms as well as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, one of the state’s most influential unions. Like most successful shops in Sacramento, Robinson is stocked with former political insiders. Partner Craig Brown was the head of the state’s Department of Finance. Partner Richard Lehman was a state legislator from Modesto from 1983 to 1995 and is something of an expert on Central Valley water and agriculture. Another former Orange County legislator, Dennis Carpenter, successfully made the transition from state senator to lobbyist. Carpenter retired last year, but his firm, Carpenter, Snodgrass & Associates, remains a top player. Today, the five-person firm is run by Kathleen Snodgrass, a former adviser to ex-Assembly Speaker (now San Francisco Mayor) Willie Brown Jr. The firm brought in just more than $2 million last year. Though Carpenter Snodgrass represents major clients such as BP Amoco PLC, the Orange County Transportation Authority and insurance giant Mercury General Corp., it has slipped in the revenue rankings since earning the top spot in 1995. In 1996, the year Kahl/Pownall dethroned Carpenter, the firm had higher revenue — $2.6 million — than it does today. Firm President Kathleen Snodgrass didn’t return calls for this story. Other lobbyists, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, say the firm has fallen off because it has not fully adapted to the times. To be successful in today’s lobbying environment, Michael says, a firm has to be able to handle all aspects of the game: Working on legislation and regulations, helping elect candidates and putting together ballot initiatives. “The big players all do that,” he says. And the aftershocks of Proposition 140 continue to be felt. In addition to establishing term limits, the law reduced funding for legislative staff. A number of staff aides left the Legislature, and many are now in the lobbying world. “Experience and institutional knowledge left the building,” says Rose, “and some of it moved outside. There’s a lot of knowledge based in the lobbying core. To some degree, we’re taking care of a lot of the details.” Related chart: The Top Ten

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