Michael Kahl

Obituary: Michael Kahl started influential Sacramento firm

Published: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

Michael Kahl, a former Washington official and influential lobbyist who cofounded a leading public affairs firm in Sacramento, died Nov. 18 of a heart attack, his family said. He was 71.

Mr. Kahl began shaping public policy as an aide to California lawmakers before moving to Washington in 1968 to work for Robert Finch, who was appointed by President Richard Nixon as secretary of health, education and welfare. At Finch's request, he organized a team of experts who created a new federal bureau that became the Environmental Protection Agency.

He returned to California in the early 1980s and started Kahl Associates, a Sacramento lobbying and consulting firm. In 1996, he merged his group with lawyer Fred Pownall to create KP Public Affairs, one of the top lobbying firms in the state.

Mr. Kahl's client list included the Western States Petroleum Association, a group representing the state's biggest oil companies. He was well known at the Capitol as an influential figure who built effective coalitions to pass legislation. He retired in 2004.

"He didn't agree with the usual practice of gaining influence through campaign donations," said his son Bruce. "He was a big advocate of knowing policy and knowing the issues in the legislation so you could sit down and negotiate with interest groups on each side."

Born July 22, 1941, Bruce Michael Kahl grew up in Orange County and graduated as the first student body president at Buena Park High School. He earned a political science degree as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate at UC Berkeley and a fellowship that led to campaign and staff positions in California and Washington.

Mr. Kahl moved several years ago to El Cajon. He planted a vineyard and ran a family winery in east San Diego County until the toll from Parkinson's disease forced him to stop.

He was married for 53 years and had three children with his wife Judy, who survives him. Other survivors include his sons, Bruce Kahl of Malibu, and Brian Kahl of Jamul; daughter, Julie Myers of El Cajon; and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial service was held Saturday in El Cajon.

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