Shane Goldmacher is a former reporter for Capitol Weekly. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he served as editor of the Berkeley Political Review.

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  • 1A: 76.9-23.1
    1B: 61.3-38.7
    1C: 57.4-42.6
    1D: 56.6-43.4
    1E: 64-36
    83: 70.6-29.4
    84: 53.7-46.3
    85: 45.9-54.1
    86: 48-52
    87: 45.2-54.8
    88: 23-77
    89: 25.5-74.5
    90: 47.6-52.4

    U.S. Sen.
    Feinstein 59.7
    Mountjoy 34.9
    Schwarzenegger 55.8
    Angelides 39.2
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 49.5
    McClintock 44.9
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 56.7
    Poochigian 37.9
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 48.5
    McPherson 44.7
    Lockyer 54.8
    Parrish 37
    Chiang 50.9
    Strickland 40.1
    Insur. Comm.
    Poizner 50.7
    Bustamante 38.9

    For complete election results click here.

    Angelides 48.2
    Westly 43.1
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 42.9
    Speier 39.3
    Figueroa 17.8
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 63.2
    Delgadillo 36.8
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 61.1
    Ortiz 38.9
    Parrish 56.4
    Richman 43.6
    Democratic primary
    Chiang 53.4
    Dunn 46.6
    Republican primary
    Strickland 40.9
    Maldonado 36.9
    Insur. Comm.
    Bustamante 70.5
    Kraft 29.5
    Supt. of Schools
    O'Connell 52.5, avoids run-off

    For complete election results click here.

    73: 47.4-52.6
    74: 45-55
    75: 46.6-53.4
    76: 38-62
    77: 40.5-59.5
    78: 41.5-58.5
    79: 38.9-61.1
    80: 34.3-65.7

    For complete election results click here.

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    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Burton, Alpert to advocate for cable companies

    The following first appeared in Capitol Weekly

    California's cable companies have turned to two termed-out legislative lions, former Senate leader John Burton and former Appropriations Committee chairwoman Sen. Dede Alpert, to push their agenda as the Senate considers legislation that would transform the state's cable industry.

    The additions are only the latest round in a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort that has included newspaper ads, thousands spent on television spots and intense one-on-one Capitol lobbying.

    Both the telecommunications companies, led by AT&T and Verizon, and the cable companies, led by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association, have bulked up their lobbying presence in Sacramento to battle over the legislation, which was introduced by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, earlier this year.

    But the hiring of two former lawmakers that are non-registered lobbyists to, in essence, lobby the Legislature has raised the question of where policy discussion ends and lobbying begins.

    "I look forward to talking to an ex-colleague, but that's a good question because [with] an ex-colleague at which point does it become advocacy and at which point does it just become a policy discussion," said Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Montebello, who chairs the Energy, Utilities and Communications committee, where the bill currently resides.

    By not registering as lobbyists, Alpert and Burton are not required to disclose the payments they make or receive. They also retain coveted "floor privileges," the ability to walk onto the floor of the Senate during session, access that is denied to any registered lobbyist in the state.

    Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said that while there is no hard and fast rule about floor access, any floor lobbying by ex-legislators is strictly prohibited.

    "I would think that while they are doing this, to act appropriately would mean that they would not be on the floor. I would expect that both of them would adhere to that," said Perata.

    Jamie Court, a spokesman for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, called on Burton and Alpert to register as lobbyists, saying their undisclosed consulting was exploiting a major loophole in the law.

    "This is one of the bigger abuses in the Capitol," Court said of "former lawmakers that strategize with their former colleagues about issues but don't mention specific legislation and then don't have to declare themselves lobbyists."

    There is a one-year moratorium for termed-out legislators signing up as lobbyists, but both Burton and Alpert have not held elected office for more than a year and could legally register. Under state law, a lobbyist is defined as someone earning $2,000 or more per month whose "principal duties as an employee are to communicate directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action."

    Numerous ex-legislators currently lobby in Sacramento, including former Assemblyman Brett Granlund, who works for Platinum Advisors, and Phil Isenberg and Ken Maddox, who each launched their own lobbying shops.

    Dennis Mangers, president of the California Cable and Telecommunications Association, which hired Burton two weeks ago, said the ex-lawmakers are valuable additions to cable's lobbying efforts.

    "No one understands the legislative environment better than John Burton and Dede Alpert," he said. "They are held in high regard by their former colleagues."

    Burton will be a strategist for cable, said Mangers, though he expects Burton "will end up talking to selected senators, within the parameters of the law, about our perspective."

    Burton declined to comment for this story. Alpert, who works as a consultant for the lobbying house Nielsen-Merksamer, will be working for Comcast and could not be reached before publication.

    The cable legislation, which would allow phone companies access to a statewide agreement to offer cable TV and Internet service across California, has been one of the more hotly contested bills of the session. Proponents say consumer savings could reach $1 billion, while opponents see the bill as a big industry giveaway.

    Both the telecommunications and cable companies have upped efforts in the Capitol this year. Three of the of the state's four leading cable companies have hired contract lobbyists for the first time. AT&T has lined up four full-time lobbyists and contracted out with five of the state's leading firms.

    "AT&T has bought up every other lobbyist in the Capitol," said Court, who opposes the legislation. "Having Burton on our side is great. He is the conscience of the Senate and if he can't get it done, no one can."

    But Court still believes Burton and Alpert should register as lobbyists. "I don't think he should be unwilling to relinquish his floor privileges to get in the fight," he said.

    Verizon spokesman Jon Davies was unimpressed by cable's recent hires, saying, "We have a great deal of respect for Sen. Burton. But, with all due respect, this bill isn't about lobbyists or the special interests they represent. This bill is about competition, choice, lower prices and better products for consumers."

    The phone companies and the cable association also have lapped political contributions on the Legislature, with AT&T sponsoring one of the Democratic Party's biggest fund-raisers of the year at Pebble Beach. Núñez, the author of the cable regulations bill, played host at the golfing extravaganza.

    Meanwhile, the cable association has made political contributions to more than 90 percent of sitting legislators.

    In its current form, cable opposes the legislation. But incumbent cable providers hope that Burton and Alpert will help spur the Senate to include two cable-friendly amendments they see as critical to a fair bill: requiring the phone companies to "build-out" service across economic and racial lines, and allowing cable operators to "opt-in" to any new statewide agreements.

    Without those provisions, the bill passed out of the Assembly on a bipartisan, 77-0 vote.

    But cable's fortunes may improve as the industry looks to have an ally in Escutia, who says that policy, not personality, will drive the cable bill forward.

    "To me it makes no difference if they hired ex-president Bill Clinton," Escutia, who has not been contacted by either former colleague. "The telecommunications companies know very clearly that the build-out language, which they have not put on the table, is something that is critical to me if they want my support."

    Escutia's energy and communications committee must act on the cable-regulations measure by the end of the month, with a hearing expected on June 27.

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