Governor's Revolving Door for Staffers

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

After six months of grass-roots organizing for Gov. Pete Wilson's presidential bid, Mitch Zak suddenly found himself out of work when the campaign fizzled last fall. But Wilson took care of him.

Within weeks, Zak was installed as a special assistant to the state Fish and Game director. His new salary was 80% higher than his old one as a governor's office assistant--a job that he quit to stump for Wilson.

Exercising his power of patronage, the governor provided state jobs for Zak and more than two dozen other former campaign aides, including his treasurer and chief speech writer. The annual cost to taxpayers: $1.3 million.

Nearly half of the appointees, records show, were former state workers who got promotions and salary boosts averaging 32% when they returned to government jobs after several months on the campaign trail.

Some, including the governor's press secretary, negotiated sizable pay increases to work in the campaign and kept the increases when they resumed state service.

In addition, many received substantial payments from the state--in one case, $49,000--by cashing in accumulated vacation and leave time before joining the campaign.

The Wilson administration also found jobs for more than a dozen former political aides who had not worked in state government, including the campaign's in-house attorney. Some landed in newly created positions paying $35,000 to nearly $100,000 a year.

Wilson declined to be interviewed about his appointments.

Officials in the governor's office said that workers were not promised jobs as rewards for campaigning and that all the raises and promotions were based on merit. The campaign, they said, gave the governor an opportunity to observe closely the skills and talents of individuals he wanted to bring into or keep in state government.

"We make no apologies whatsoever for the fact that good staff people have gone from government service onto this presidential campaign and then have come back," said Wilson press secretary Sean Walsh. "It's good for the people of California.

"If there were people in the campaign that were pretty good and you had slots that were open in state government . . . you try and snatch them up," said Walsh, who left state government for five months to serve the campaign and reassumed his old position with a $10,000-a-year raise, to $84,996.

Documents provided by the governor's office indicate that Wilson gave a state job to every former appointee who worked for the campaign and wanted to return.

The biggest raise went to Zak, 26, who left as a governor's office assistant making $24,000, and returned six months later to the Fish and Game post, which pays $43,272.

"I believe I'm worth every dollar I make," he said, explaining that while working for the governor's office he went to night classes to get a master's degree.

Patronage--the rewarding of political allies with government positions--has persisted in California despite reforms that ushered in the state's merit-based Civil Service system more than 80 years ago. Like politicians at every level of government, including the Legislature, Wilson has used his authority to appoint operatives from his campaigns.

But the governor's powers of appointment far surpass those of any other state official--and during his five-year tenure, Wilson has expanded the number of full-time appointees under his control.

What is most striking about the appointments after his presidential bid, according to experts, is the number of hirings and the magnitude of raises and promotions granted after such a short election foray.

When the governor sought the presidency last year--despite earlier promises not to do so--critics said he was sacrificing the good of the state for his political ambitions. In addition to spending much of his time away from California, The Times found that the governor pulled many of his most trusted aides from state service until he dropped out of the race in September.

This ebb and flow of appointees came at an unusually distressed time. The economy was flagging and state revenues were down. Under pressure to reduce government, Wilson had pushed to eliminate cost-of-living increases for state workers and imposed a hiring freeze.

"In response to the state's continuing fiscal difficulties," he wrote in a July 1995 order, "all state agencies and departments . . . are prohibited from filling vacancies that would constitute a new hire to state government."

Records show that Wilson did not apply those same rules to his own appointments.

While thousands of state jobs were left unfilled last year and the overall number of state workers dropped 1.5%, state controller's records show that the number of Wilson's full-time appointees increased 5%. As of Jan. 31, The Times found, the governor had 792 appointees on the state payroll, up 37 from the year before.

Eight of the 28 former campaign workers who landed in state jobs were appointed to new positions, according to the governor's office.

It is common for governors to give jobs to key political aides, said Robert Fellmeth, director of the University of San Diego's Center for Public Interest Law. But he questioned the recent salary increases because they appeared to be rewards for campaign work.

"The key here is quid pro quo," Fellmeth said. "Because they have contributed their time, energy and resources in terms of the political campaign, they get something that other good state workers don't get."

Drew Mendelson, a spokesman for the California State Employees Assn., said it was hypocritical of the governor to reward his campaign staff while denying cost-of-living increases to state workers.

"He is demonstrating that it is more important to have loyalty to the politician than to the people," Mendelson said. "He is reinstituting a system that we thought long dead, of patronage, of spoils."

Officials in the Wilson administration said there were no contradictions between the policies that he developed for rank-and-file state workers and those that governed his political staff.

They argued that the hiring freeze for state jobs was never meant to apply to the governor's appointees because he needs the freedom to go outside an entrenched bureaucracy to find talented people he can trust to carry out his programs.

Walsh defended the salary increases for those cycled in and out of the campaign. "There is no quid pro quo saying, 'If you come to the presidential campaign, we're going to take care of you and give you a lot more money when you come back to state government,' " Walsh said. "I would say that would be very much out of character for the way the governor operates affairs. . . . He's a stickler for making sure that we follow the rules."

One rule, a top Wilson aide wrote last summer, is that "his appointees are eligible for merit raises only."

Of the 14 state employees who left to work for Wilson's campaign and returned to state service, all but one received raises ranging from 7% to 80%. The exception was Joseph D. Rodota Jr., a $99,804-a-year senior assistant to the governor, already one of the governor's highest-paid advisors.

When asked how working on a campaign qualified workers for state merit raises and promotions, Walsh said that from the governor's perspective, the experience that people gained enhanced their skills and increased their value.

"There's nothing wrong and it's appropriate that anyone who seeks a new job and is wanted for a new job should try to negotiate the best possible salary or compensation package available," Walsh said.

Walsh and Wilson appointments secretary Julia Justus said no one on the campaign payroll was guaranteed a job in state government. They cited a couple of examples of former campaign aides who sought state jobs but did not get them.

Justus said the governor appointed only highly qualified people, and their pay was consistent with their responsibilities.

"If you don't appoint people who are qualified to do the jobs . . . you undercut yourself," she said. "So fundamentally it doesn't matter where they come from; it's their ability to do the job."

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Most appointees from the presidential campaign are young, loyal and willing to stake their futures on Wilson's success. Many served in his 1990 and 1994 gubernatorial campaigns.

"I look at it as being a good soldier," said Kevin Herglotz, 29. He left a public affairs job at the Trade and Commerce Agency to work on the campaign and later got a top post in the Food and Agriculture Department and a 35% raise. "I have an awful lot of respect for this governor, and I look at [these jobs] . . . as an opportunity to serve in some capacity to help the governor."

When Walsh joined the campaign, he received a 13% pay increase. He returned to the Capitol five months later with the same job title but kept the higher pay. Along with it, Walsh said, came some additional responsibilities.

"To be quite frank, when I came back . . . I didn't really feel like going back to my old salary level," he said.

In June, a few days before Walsh left for the campaign, his wife, Kimberly, was one of a number of Republican Assembly staffers swept from office by former Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress) on a day later dubbed "Bloody Friday." She had served as press secretary for Republican Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga.

The next month, Wilson named her a deputy communications director at $65,004 a year.

Sean Walsh said that the governor had long wanted Kimberly on his staff and that there was no connection between the timing of her hiring and his own move to the campaign. "I could have gone many places, but I felt it an honor to come here [the governor's office]," Kim Walsh said. "I take great pride in my own resume and my own identity."

Sean Walsh was one of 12 state employees who collected cash for unused vacation and leave time when they went to the campaign--in his case, $16,349.

The time had to be cashed in, he said, because the governor wanted them to resign rather than take leaves of absence. He said Wilson feared that opposing campaigns might allege that he was using state workers for political purposes.

"We made a conscious effort to make it a clean break," Walsh said.

When A. Peter Kezirian Jr., 31, quit his job as a Los Angeles securities lawyer, he says he expected to stay with Wilson until the governor reached the White House. "I told a friend that I had to know how to run an inaugural ball," recalled Kezirian, who oversaw day-to-day legal work at Wilson headquarters in Sacramento.

After the campaign, the governor named him to the new job of general counsel for the Department of Corporations at $78,276 a year.

Accountant Mark G. Hoglund left the federal Interstate Commerce Commission in August to work as Wilson's campaign treasurer. Soon Hoglund had to deliver the bad news that the drive was running a $2-million deficit.

Last month, Wilson appointed him to the new deputy secretary job at the State and Consumer Services Agency at $95,784 a year.

Hoglund said he could have found a higher-paying job in the private sector but chose to stand by Wilson and pursue his mission to "make government function more like a business."

Justus, the appointments secretary, said most job-seekers from the campaign were interviewed by her office and then recommended for positions in the governor's office or state agencies.

Newly appointed Secretary of Food and Agriculture Ann Veneman, whose agency absorbed four ex-campaign workers, said she jumped at the chance to grab skilled people. "I feel very lucky to be able to tap into that pool."

Although the applicants were recommended by the governor's office, she said, "I was not forced to

hire anybody for any reason."

One former campaigner who was hired as an analyst at $30,000 a year had served as an office assistant for the governor at $18,000. Another was hired as an assistant to Veneman at $35,000 a year, a raise of $12,000. Both are in their 20s.

Others who took jobs in state government included:

* James Badenhausen, 30. Wilson's chief speech writer, he left for a similar job with the campaign. He came back to his old job, with added responsibilities, at $85,000 a year, a 13% pay increase. Four months before the campaign, Wilson promoted Badenhausen's wife, Carolyn, to chief lobbyist at the California Environmental Protection Agency at $67,896 a year, a 30% pay increase.

Both Badenhausens said there was no connection between her promotion and his moving to the campaign. "I'd like to think I'm a very qualified person in my own right," Carolyn Badenhausen said.

* Victoria L. Bradshaw, 47. She left her job as California's labor commissioner, taking with her $49,016 in accumulated leave time. Charged with organizing support among women for the pro-choice governor, she was to join the campaign effort on the day it folded. Two months later, Wilson appointed her industrial relations director at $107,939 a year, a 21% increase in pay.

* Andrew J. Chang, 29. A former fiscal advisor to the governor, Chang spent five months on the campaign working on economic policy. On his return to government, he was named assistant secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, a new position with a $50,796 annual salary--a $17,000 increase. Chang said he believes that he received the increase in part because his compensation during the campaign did not measure up to that of other Wilson advisors.

Several political scientists point out that placing campaign workers in government jobs is perhaps the most ubiquitous form of political patronage, as common in the statehouse as it is in the White House.

Alan Rosenthal, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, says that it is often a way of repaying loyalty by campaign workers and of "stockpiling" the good ones for future campaigns.

"I tell my students" he said, "one way to get a job [in government] is to get into a campaign."

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About This Series

In this presidential election year, the role of money in California politics will be a key issue. Two major initiatives seeking to reform campaign fund-raising are proposed for the November ballot.

This also is the year that term limits for the state Assembly kick in--prompted in part by rising public concern about the way politicians use incumbency to advance their careers.

In this occasional series, The Times will explore how money influences government action and how elected officials reward those who helped put them in power.

TODAY: How the governor used patronage powers to provide state jobs for ex-campaign workers.

The Returnees

These political appointees left the Wilson administration to work for the governor's presidential campaign and were later placed in state jobs after the campaign folded. Many received substantial lump-sum payments for accumulated vacation and leave time when they went to the campaign. They received pay increases averaging 32% when returning to state service.

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Returning Lump Sum Name/Title Upon Return Age Salary* Increase for Leave Time James M. Badenhausen 30 $84,996 13% $21,804 Assistant to governor Shannon L. Bowman** 30 $66,804 23% $16,498 Deputy director, Consumer Affairs Victoria L. Bradshaw 47 $107,939 21% $49,016 Director, Employment Development Andrew J. Chang 29 $50,796 50% $2,900 Assistant sec., State and Consumer Services Todd J. Ferrara 23 $30,000 67% 0 Policy analyst, Food and Agriculture Robert J. Finley 27 $36,504 7% $574 Assistant to chair, Air Resources Board T. John Garrish 26 $37,000 18% $9,874 Washington representative, Caltrans Jeffrey F. Gorell** 25 $35,004 52% $2,516 Assistant to sec., Food and Agriculture Kevin Herglotz 29 $55,872 35% 0 Dir. external affairs, Food and Agriculture Alison McMahon 26 $32,004 28% $728 Office technician, governor's office Joseph D. Rodota Jr. 36 $99,804 -- $17,296 Senior assistant to governor Sean T. Walsh 32 $84,996 13% $16,349 Governor's press secretary Christian K. Wrede 25 $30,000 43% $517 Office technician, governor's office Mieczyslaw "Mitch" Zak 26 $43,272 80% $3,268 Special assistant to director, Fish and Game

*--*

* Salaries do not include cost of fringe benefits, which state officials estimate are an additional 25% to 28%.

** These individuals have moved on to other jobs.

Source: State controller's office, governor's office

The Campaigners

After the Wilson for President campaign collapsed in late September, these campaign employees were appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to state jobs. The campaign's in-house lawyer and treasurer were among the employees who were new to state service.

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Name/Title Age State Salary* Sara A. Brown 28 $18,000 Office assistant, governor's office Julie M. Dime 20 $23,004 Staff assistant, Resources Agency (Washington) Whitney Graham 29 $39,996 Special assistant to secretary, Trade and Commerce Mark G. Hoglund 35 $95,784 Assistant secretary, State and Consumer Services Jeff G. Homrig** 23 $18,000 Office assistant, governor's office Fiona J. Hutton** 26 $45,000 Staff assistant to governor Nicole M. Kasabian 25 $35,004 Liaison to fair boards, Food and Agriculture Aram Peter Kezirian Jr. 31 $78,276 General counsel, Corporations Charles H. Jacobes 26 $18,000 Office assistant, governor's office Patrick F. McCartan 32 $63,000 Washington representative, Trade and Commerce Todd M. Spitler 26 $21,600 Office assistant, governor's office Matthew D. Taggart 23 $18,000 Office assistant, governor's office Margaret D. Tyson 21 $18,000 Office assistant, governor's office Whitney Walker 22 $21,000 Office assistant, governor's office

*--*

* Salaries do not include cost of fringe benefits, which state officials estimate are an additional 25% to 28%.

** These individuals have moved on to other jobs.

Source: State controller's office, governor's office

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