Hector Amezcua / hector@hectoramezcua.com

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, talks about his experience dealing with budgets as the Mayor of San Francisco with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as they discussed the need for pension reform during a roundtable meeting Thursday, July 8, 2010 at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Capitol Alert: Willie Brown representing new cardroom group

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 - 10:51 am

WillieBrown2.jpg

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has a new gig. He recently signed a one-year contract to represent an association of cardrooms, said the group's executive director Jarhett Blonien.

Blonien, a Sacramento lobbyist, is the son of the late Rodney Blonien, who lobbied on behalf of cardrooms for 25 years before he passed away in 2012. Jarhett Blonien took over his dad's business and formed Communities for California Cardrooms earlier this year.

Blonien said he retained Brown to help the cardroom group build up its membership and salve tensions among frequently sparring gambling interests.

"That's what he does," Blonien said. "He's the ultimate peace broker."

Blonien said his relationship with Brown goes back to childhood, when he made the rounds at political fundraisers with his dad. Blonien and Brown traveled to China together earlier this year, he said, to visit gambling operations in Macau.

Last year, Brown represented a different group that was pushing for a bill to allow internet poker in California. It has since disbanded.

Brown will serve as a behind-the-scenes consultant to the cardroom group, Blonien said. The former speaker is not a registered lobbyist so his work on behalf of the cardrooms will not be evident in the public record. Unlike lobbyists, consultants do not have to publicly report who pays them or how much.

An investigation by The Bee this year documented a severe lack of detail in California's lobbying reports. Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Brown is among a cadre of former government officials -- including former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez -- who represent private sector clients without registering as lobbyists. The Fair Political Practices Commission recently fined three highly-connected consultants for engaging in lobbying without registering.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Laurel Rosenhall



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