Skip to comments.CA: Show Me The Money (Susan Kennedy wanted $250K a year at new job)
Posted on 02/17/2006 7:06:00 AM PST by NormsRevenge
When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided he wanted to appoint controversial Democratic operative Susan Kennedy as his gubernatorial chief of staff in the immediate aftermath of his November special election initiative defeats, according to very reliable informed sources, the former cabinet secretary to recalled Governor Gray Davis first insisted on being paid $250,000 a year.
Schwarzenegger said no, and Kennedy assumed the deal was off. But when the former action superstar returned from his glitzkrieg post-election tour of China, he resumed negotiations. Kennedy ended up with a salary this year that, though short of her original figure, does approach it. She will receive $221,000 for working as the top appointed official in California state government. $131,000 from the public payroll and $90,000 from Schwarzeneggers campaign committee.
This controversial arrangement appears to be the highest salary ever paid to a California governors chief of staff, certainly in more than 30 years. (With cash sloshing through Californias political fundraising system in the days before Governor Jerry Brown, its impossible to say for certain who got what in the eras of Ronald Reagan and before. Though Im currently not aware of any previous chiefs of staff getting quarter-million paydays. At least while serving as chief of staff.)
Although, as reported here, the original story as recounted to the California Republican Party executive board and others was that Kennedy would do the publics business by running the Governors Office but would stay out of politics, in reality she is a featured attraction at the governors meetings and events with major donors and is playing a lynchpin role in his campaign strategy. The problem, as noted far more vociferously by political critics of the arrangement, is that potential and actual political contributors with potential and actual business with the state government receive immediate direct access to the governors chief action officer. Within the context of their making financial contributions. High-level access to and influence with top decision makers are the names of the game.
So how did this appointment, which seems to many veteran analysts of California politics bizarre on its face, come down?
As I revealed in December following Kennedys shock appointment, she had been in play as a replacement for then chief of staff Patricia Clarey since early last year, which I learned then when a Schwarzenegger friend began asking my opinion of her. The governor knew her through her work on the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) where, though an appointee of Gray Davis, she emerged as the go-to commissioner for the Schwarzenegger Administration. Indeed, she conferred regularly with then Arnold chief of staff Clarey.
Schwarzenegger believed in a light regulatory touch with emerging technology fields such as telecommunications, which is regulated by the PUC. And the PUC was even more important to him because of his energy policy. Determined to do an end run around the Legislature where labor unions and the perennial power player utility company Southern California Edison held disproportionate sway the former action superstar seized on legislation authored by former state Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee chairman Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) which allows him to do pretty much just that.
So the governor knew Kennedy and admired her capabilities. But according to very reliable sources, it was another key behind-the-scenes figure in Schwarzworld who became a strong advocate of the Kennedy-as-chief of staff scenario last spring.
That individual is former state Assembly Speaker and 2005 Los Angeles mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg. The San Fernando Valley Democrat, now a high-paid power lawyer in L.A., directed new L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosas transition team after narrowly missing the run-off in the election which catapulted Villaraigosa to power. (Hertzberg and Villaraigosa, who preceded Hertzberg as Assembly speaker, were roommates during their state legislative days who became rivals, then friends again.)
Hertzberg, a pro-business Democrat, came to know and admire Susan Kennedy when he was speaker of the state Assembly and she was a top aide to then Governor Gray Davis frequently working to advance a pro-business agenda on Daviss behalf.
Ironically, Hertzberg himself was an early choice of Schwarzenegger to be the former Mr. Universes chief of staff during Schwarzeneggers own transition period following his election during the California recall in October 2003. But that idea died for reasons too complex for this column.
Hertzberg again was a preferred choice for Schwarzenegger to replace Clarey as his chief of staff when the governors ballyhooed special election initiatives came crashing to earth last November. But Schwarzenegger, who had already been too hot for a Democrat with electoral aspirations in mostly Democratic Los Angeles last spring, had gone full-blown radioactive in Democratic circles by last November. So the choice was Kennedy who although she has become pretty famous as Arnolds chief of staff is unlikely to be running for public office any time soon.
In addition to Hertzberg as an advocate of her appointment, there were First Lady Maria Shriver and her chief of staff, Dan Zingale, also a name Democrat and former top aide to Gray Davis. And a good friend of Susan Kennedy who, according to Democratic sources, met with Zingale in the capital last year while her name was in play for the chief of staff spot.
Schwarzenegger was already impressed with Kennedy and, inclined for political purposes to appoint a Democrat in the wake of the highly partisanized Year of Reform debacle, did his deal with his new chief of staff. But, according to reliable informed sources, convinced that she was the woman for the job he was pursuing her for, he did not do a thorough vetting of Kennedys background.
She will receive $221,000 for working as the top appointed official in California state government. $131,000 from the public payroll and $90,000 from Schwarzeneggers campaign committee.
Criminy, she's getting $221K as is...
Ah, it's just other people's money.
After taxes, that's almost poverty level.
In Kalifornia your only charged 8.25%tax rate.
I wonder what this was about. Does it have anything to do with the way he got his $3 Billion Solar Roof Plan implemented?
Plus the $100,000 she got in December from Brackpool/Cadiz (paid through Miller and Holguin) for her work on "federal regulatory and legal issues."
Life is good!