Every year, Capitol Weekly picks the top 100 most influential, behind-the-scenes power players in California government.
In August, Capitol Weekly named former PG&E executive Nancy McFadden as # 1 for 2017 — the most influential person in Sacramento.
“She runs the government,” said Capitol Weekly editor John Howard to Mark Keppler of the Maddy Institute.
McFadden is Governor Jerry Brown’s chief of staff.
Capitol Weekly also ranked former PG&E executive Dana Williamson, Brown’s former cabinet secretary, as 29th most influential in the capitol. Williamson officially left that position this year, but she now works offsite as a private political consultant, and she is Jerry Brown’s political adviser and legislative strategist and runs Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s election campaign.
Together these two PG&E representatives have complete and unrestricted access to the Governor, hold the keys to all facets of Jerry Brown’s administration, including powerful appointments to regulatory agencies such as the CPUC, political favors and punishments, and private information and power over the public. Since Jerry Brown is also the de facto head of the California Democratic Party, the rank-and-file march in step with this drum, or else.
No reform of utilities or the regulatory structure in California is possible until this oligarchy, this “company town” situation, is confronted and dismantled once and for all, brick by brick. Until that happens, PG&E and the utilities will continue to harm Californians with impunity and teflon-coated immunity.
Nov. 2, 2017
Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 list – 2017
1. Nancy McFadden
Nancy McFadden, chief of staff to the governor, is at the top of this year’s list, and here’s why: She shapes every major political and policy issue that emerges from the administration and manages the staff to get it done. Whether it’s extending the state’s cap-and-trade program or pushing for new revenue to overhaul the state’s crumbling infrastructure – the two biggest issues of the year for the Brown administration — McFadden was at ground zero when the deals were cut. Indeed, she seems to be everywhere when negotiations reach critical mass, and nothing happens unless McFadden signs off on it. McFadden works out of the “horseshoe” – the suite of offices inside the Capitol housing key administration officials – so she has a relatively low public profile. Even among reporters and others who follow state politics and the Capitol, McFadden is largely invisible and rarely quoted. She also doesn’t return phone calls and emails – at least to us. But her presence is felt throughout the government, in both policy and personnel, and her fingerprints are everywhere. McFadden has been in and out of state and federal government over the years, and came to the Brown administration after a strategy stint as senior VP at PG&E. She later brought some former PG&E colleagues into the horseshoe, and they rose to major positions as well. She was a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, and before that she was deputy chief of staff to Al Gore. McFadden also served as general counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Clinton Administration. Her blend of policy and politics experience is pure gold in government, where every major decision is part politics, part policy and part communications spin.
29. Dana Williamson
We figured that after Dana Williamson left her gig as Gov. Brown’s cabinet secretary, we could drop her from the list and get a new name in the fold. But no such luck. Williamson, now working as private political consultant in Sacramento, is very much Brown’s political adviser and legislative strategist. Everyone we spoke to said Williamson did Brown’s heavy lifting in negotiating the extension of California’s cap-and-trade program – the administration’s highest-priority legislation of the year. Williamson also is tasked with handling Xavier Becerra’s election campaign for attorney general. Becerra, who Brown appointed attorney general to replace Kamala Harris, faces his first statewide election next year. Like Nancy McFadden, (see No. 1), Williamson has PG&E experience. Before becoming cabinet secretary in 2013, she served as a senior adviser to Brown, and she was a deputy communications director and deputy political director for former Gov. Gray Davis.