Still swinging in his 70s

Ex-Wilson chief Bob White ranks high among influence-peddlers

Bob White
  • Bob White

He's into his 70s now, but San Diego's Bob White, onetime chief aide and political intimate of Republican mayor (and later United States senator and California governor) Pete Wilson, is still near the peak of Sacramento's influence-peddling pyramid.

So says Capitol Weekly, which has placed the nattily-attired White in 47th place on its annual top hundred list of the California capital's most influential insiders.

"We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again," says Capitol Weekly. "Of all the people or firms we put on this list, the one that draws the most reaction is Bob White, who founded California Strategies and who seems to employ just about everybody except us.

"The reality is CalStrat is a target-rich environment for us.

"White, chief of staff to former Gov. Pete Wilson, is something of an institution now and casts a wide net. His several outfits, by whatever name, do lobbying, communications, strategy, campaign handling, crisis management and corporate communications, general hobnobbing and arm-twisting imagery — you name it.

"His players, however loosely affiliated, have included Jim Brulte, the former GOP leader of both houses of the Legislature and now the head of the state Republican Party, and Garry South, a Democratic campaign guru with more races than we can list here.

"Of course, there’s Gary Hunt, Terry McGann, Carol Whiteside, Rusty Areias, Steve Larson, Winston Hickox, B.B. Blevins, Jason Kinney, Joanne Kozberg, Victoria Bradshaw, John Flanigan, etc., etc. A crew of trouble makers, clearly."

The San Diego office of California Strategies has represented diverse clientele including the San Diego Alternative Health Association, which has been seeking "approval of a municipal ordinance permitting the lawful dispensation of medical cannabis for healthcare purposes."

Other clients here include Clear Channel Outdoor, which wants to go digital with its billboards; the Corky McMillin Companies, the big development outfit; Rock Church; and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The public agency, which runs Lindbergh Field, has paid the firm $12,000 a month for governmental relations advice.

Many of White's San Diego assignments have been controversial, including an assignment from Solar Turbines to ward off a condo project across the street from its toxics-emitting plant.

Members of the firm have handed out plenty of campaign cash and held lavish Sacramento fundraisers for local officials, including take-no-prisoners Republican city attorney Jan Goldsmith and ex-GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, who in 2008 helped the firm get a $280,950 city redevelopment contract regarding a now-defunct plan to build a new city hall.

According to the terms of that deal, the company was to "assist in developing a comprehensive and proactive public outreach program intended to educate, increase communications with, and engage the entire San Diego community with regard to exploring the possibilities for redevelopment of the Civic Center Complex.”

Republicans haven’t been the only beneficiaries of White's largesse. At number 80 on Capitol Weekly's top 100 list is Jason Kinney, who as a California Strategies principal, "handles major Democrats, including Lt. Gavin Newsom, among others."

According to Capitol Weekly, Kinney "works on any number of major projects, most of which we know nothing about until they make headlines. Kinney, who’s close to departing senate leader Darrell Steinberg, worked in Gray Davis’s communications shop and is known best in the Capitol and among reporters for his political connections and savvy.”

"He’s also advised any number of corporate clients, including AT&T, perhaps the single most powerful corporate presence in the Capitol (see Bill Devine, No. 6). Kinney also knows the relationships between strategists, candidates and clients, and is a walking encyclopedia of what’s going on beyond the public view."

Last September Kinney and two California Strategies associates, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox, agreed to pay a total fine of $40,500 and register as lobbyists to settle charges brought by the California Fair Political Practices Commission that they had engaged in so-called shadow lobbying.

"Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret," the Sacramento Bee reported at the time, "including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure."

Comments

Think there's too much money in California politics? Bob White's California Strategies is living testament to the notion. That outfit's $281,000 contract to promote a never-happen new city hall for ex-mayor Jerry Sanders who now heads the right-wing SD Chamber of Commerce is outrageous. Sanders ought to pay reparations to the City.

And speaking of nefarious locals, where does creepy former legislator-turned-lobbyist Fabian Nunez fit in? He was in Governor Brown's recent entourage to Mexico. Maybe Nunez runs Latino strategies for that up-and-coming niche market.

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