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L.A.'s Top 10

The Players

The following are the top 10 Los Angeles lobbying firms, based on city Ethics Commission reports of the fees they have collected for lobbying on city issues. Also included are the firms’ lead City Hall lobbyists and top clients of 1997. The city’s strict reporting laws require firms to register lobbyists who attempt to influence decisions made by elected officials. As a result, firms such as Psomas & Associates, which are primarily technical in nature, have a governmental relations group and report lobbying fees. Others, like the Afriat Consulting Group, are primarily lobbyists but also serve as political advisors to council members. Overall, the lobbying firms are geared toward providing elected officials and city staff with insight into development projects and contracts, among other things.

Firm: Rose & Kindel

Main Lobbyist: Maureen Kindel

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Main Clients: Air Transport Assn. of America, Management Employees Assn./Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, California Business and Tavern Guild, National Promotions and Advertising Kindel was the first woman president of the city’s Board of Public Works 10 years ago and a deputy mayor to Tom Bradley. She parlayed that City Hall experience, as well as other positions on civic boards, into the lobbying firm that she co-founded with Cristina Rose, the first woman lobbyist in Sacramento.

Firm: Cerrell Associates Inc.

Main Lobbyist: Howard H. Sunkin

Main Clients: JMB Realty Corp., Majestic Realty Co., McDonnell Douglas Realty Co., Motorola Inc. At 34, Sunkin is perhaps the youngest lobbyist in City Hall. He was a student of company head Joe Cerrell at USC and went to work for Cerrell straight out of college.

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“I’m a lobbyist and I’m proud of that,” he says.

Firm: Marathon Communications Inc.

Main Lobbyist: Joan Kradin

Main Clients: Cox California PCS (Sprint PCS), Duke/Louis Dreyfus LLC, Majestic Realty, 20th Century Fox Kradin worked in City Hall in the 1970s, learning the inner workings of a council office.

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“I grew up in City Hall, basically,” Kradin says.

Firm: Ken Spiker & Associates

Main Lobbyist: Ken Spiker Jr.

Main Clients: BKK Corp., Ericsson Inc., Official Police Garage Assn. of Los Angeles, Zarn Inc. It’s a family affair at Spiker & Associates, where Ken Spiker Sr. founded the firm and where his son, Ken Spiker Jr., now does the lion’s share of the City Hall lobbying. Ken Spiker Sr. was the city’s chief legislative analyst for years before founding his firm.

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“By God, you better be honest,” Spiker Sr. says.

“You give out misinformation once and you’re dead.”

Firm: Latham & Watkins

Main Lobbyists: George J. Mihlsten and Lucinda Starrett

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Main Clients: JMB Realty Corp., L.A. Arena Co., Maguire Thomas Partners-Playa Vista, Universal Studios. Starrett and Mihlsten frequently work on projects together. They are often seen around the council chamber on such big-ticket items as the downtown Staples Center project and JMB Realty’s Constellation Plaza in Century City. They are widely respected in council offices; both say they believe issues are becoming much more complex:

“The sophistication of the council is greater and the sophistication of opponents to projects is also much greater,” Mihlsten says.

Firm: Mark Armbruster

Main Lobbyist: Mark S. Armbruster

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Main Clients: Foothills Golf Development Group, Home Depot, Royal-Clark Development, Weintraub Financial Services Armbruster, an attorney, has been representing clients in City Hall for more than 20 years. He began working on political campaigns while in school and worked in a local congressman’s office while in law school.

“I’ve been involved one way or another with local politics and the city of Los Angeles since 1971.” Armbruster is planning to merge with a Century City law firm, where he will continue to focus on land use and real estate clients, as well as companies that contract with the city.

Firm: Psomas & Associates

Main Lobbyist: Sharon Kaplan

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Main Clients: Arba Group, Castle & Cook, Dream World Developers, Maguire Thomas Partners Kaplan is another lobbyist who counts her City Hall experience as invaluable. She knows both sides. She’s been to community meetings, dealt with angry and not-so-angry constituents.

“Having been on that side,” Kaplan says, “I know, and a lot of people in my group know, that City Hall experience. I’ve been out there. I remember it.”

Firm: Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker

Main Lobbyist: Chris Funk

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Main Clients: Browning-Ferris, Mulholland Hills Associates, Regent Properties, Weintraub Financial Services Funk, an attorney who handles mostly development issues, says lobbying in City Hall has changed over the years, with more and more consultants “hanging up their shingles.” His firm does more legal work and less actual lobbying than others, but he says: “I think people believe this whole [land use] entitlement process is Machiavellian . . . there’s nothing sinister about stating your case.”

Firm: Afriat Consulting Group

Main Lobbyist: Steven Afriat

Main Clients: Gerald Katell, Laidlaw, Richard Weintraub, Robert Larner Afriat is a familiar sight around the council chambers. He was a chief council deputy for two years, and maintains good relations with some council members. Among them is Mike Hernandez, for whom Afriat is a political consultant. “I work a lot with staff,” Afriat says. “I respect the roles they play.”

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Firm: Planning Associates Inc.

Main Lobbyist: Tom Stemnock

Main Clients: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Foothills Golf Development Group, Mangrove Estate BV, Porter Ranch Development Stemnock spent nearly 14 years working for the city in the planning department as a zoning administrator, so he has firsthand knowledge of the work he now does: lobbying for land use entitlements. But in the last dozen years that he has been on the outside, he says things have become much more complicated. “The zoning code is just a nightmare,” he says. “I have all the codes since 1946 until now. They used to be a 1/4-inch thick. Today they’re 3 1/2 inches thick.”

The Money

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Los Angeles’ top 10 lobbying firms, ranked by how much money each made from lobbying on behalf of clients with city business:

Firm: Rose & Kindel

Reported Income: $1.3 million

Firm’s Contributions: $35,550

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Client’s Contributions: $78,490

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Firm: Cerrell Associates Inc.

Reported Income: $1.2 million

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Firm’s Contributions: $4,250

Client’s Contributions: $37,355

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Firm: Planning Associates Inc.

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Reported Income: $1 million

Firm’s Contributions: $44,672

Client’s Contributions: $33,664

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Firm: Marathon Inc.

Reported Income: $723,000

Firm’s Contributions: $9,775

Client’s Contributions: $28,375

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Firm: Ken Spiker & Associates

Reported Income: $507,000

Firm’s Contributions: $40,834

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Client’s Contributions: $63,975

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Firm: Latham & Watkins

Reported Income: $428,000

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Firm’s Contributions: $65,299

Client’s Contributions: $116,728

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Firm: Mark Armbruster

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Reported Income: $409,000

Firm’s Contributions: $4,500

Client’s Contributions: $7,050

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Firm: Psomas & Associates

Reported Income: $372,000

Firm’s Contributions: $34,960

Client’s Contributions: $73,425

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Firm: Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker

Reported Income: $328,000

Firm’s Contributions: $40,300

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Client’s Contributions: $85,774

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Firm: Afriat Consulting Group

Reported Income: $303,000

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Firm’s Contributions: $7,682

Client’s Contributions: $37,297

Reported income is the money earned from lobbying on city issues. Firm’s contributions are the total amounts contributed by the firms to elected city officials and candidates for city office from 1984 through June 30, 1997. Clients’ contributions are the amounts given by the firms’ top clients to city officials and candidates for city office separate from lobbyist contributions. Lobbyists Howard Sunkin, left, and Neil Papiano at City Council meeting this week. Campaign contributions for the period 7/1/96-1/31/97 were not available. Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Times filesby Beth Shuster, Cecilia Rasmussen and Jackie Cenacveira/Los Angeles Times


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