Timing is everything.
Last weekend, May 6-7, California Democrat Party Assemblymembers gathered for a lavish telecom industry fund-raising and lobbying event at Pebble Beach — the Speakers Cup. Hosted by the Speaker of the California Assembly – currently, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon –, it has been sponsored by AT&T for many years.
The timing was perfect. Though the Speakers Cup is an annual event, this year is special. The industry is eagerly anticipating the passage of its legislative piece de resistance – Senate Bill 649. Written by the wireless industry association CTIA, this bill strips cities and counties of most of their regulatory authority regarding “small cell” towers and essentially eliminates any obstacle to installing small cells everywhere. AT&T and Verizon are at the front, lobbying hard. Obviously, there is opposition from municipal governments and California residents, but they don’t vote on this bill.
The wireless industry hosted a similar event in March for California Senators in San Diego, called the Pro Tem Cup, hosted by the President of the Senate Kevin de Leon. Since that event, SB 649 has enjoyed easy passage and few obstacles through Senate committees, and the bill seems assured of an easy win when the full Senate votes later this month, unless there is a major hiccup.
If all goes well for the industry, SB 649 will head to the Assembly next. And the timely Speakers Cup greases the Assembly wheels.
It was virtually impossible to find out information about this year’s event. Perhaps California legislators became more secretive after the Los Angeles Times wrote an expose on the Speakers Cup in 2012 (see below). Contrary to popular belief, California is not the Sunshine State; legislators adopted rules years ago that keep their calendars, and who they meet with, secret.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office repeatedly said they couldn’t give out any information about the Speakers Cup, and referred questions to David Pruitt Consulting. That firm never responded. A local assemblymember’s office said they weren’t allowed to talk about it, saying it was not state-related but campaign-related. His office did say there would be no press conference. That isn’t a surprise.
Capitol Weekly ranked AT&T lobbyist Bill Devine as 16th in its top influential people in Sacramento for 2016. For 2015, he was ranked 12th. 
Where does the public rank?
From the Los Angeles Times
AT&T wields enormous power in Sacramento
No other single corporation has spent more trying to influence legislators in recent years. It dispenses millions in political donations and has an army of lobbyists. Bills it opposes are usually defeated.
April 22, 2012
|By Shane Goldmacher and Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO — As the sun set behind Monterey Bay on a cool night last year, dozens of the state’s top lawmakers and lobbyists ambled onto the 17th fairway at Pebble Beach for a round of glow-in-the-dark golf.
With luminescent balls soaring into the sky, the annual fundraiser known as the Speaker’s Cup was in full swing.
Lawmakers, labor-union champions and lobbyists gather each year at the storied course to schmooze, show their skill on the links and rejuvenate at a 22,000-square-foot spa. The affair, which typically raises more than $1 million for California Democrats, has been sponsored for more than a decade by telecommunications giant AT&T.
At the 2010 event, AT&T’s president and the state Assembly speaker toured Pebble Beach together in a golf cart, shaking hands with every lawmaker, lobbyist and other VIP in attendance.
The Speaker’s Cup is the centerpiece of a corporate lobbying strategy so comprehensive and successful that it has rewritten the special-interest playbook in Sacramento. When it comes to state government, AT&T spends more money, in more places, than any other company.