Business lobbyist tapped as aide;

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San Jose Mercury News (California)

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the chief lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce as his legislative secretary Friday, immediately drawing fire from consumer advocates.

Richard Costigan, 37, will be Schwarzenegger’s chief liaison between the governor’s office and the Legislature.

”It’s an absolute contradiction to Schwarzenegger’s promise during the campaign to govern for the people, not special interests in Sacramento,” said Carmen Balber of the non-profit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

”The chamber of commerce has been the biggest lobbyist for big business in Sacramento,” she said. ”Rather than cleaning house, this is far more like turning over the keys to special interests.”

But H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the governor, said Costigan’s ”single interest” will be representing the governor and moving his agenda forward.

”His agenda was supported by a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats and independents, who sent Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sacramento to change the way business is done in this city,” Palmer said. ”Mr. Costigan is going to assist the governor in carrying that out.”

In his role as vice president of governmental relations and chief lobbyist for the chamber of commerce, Costigan had oversight for the development of the chamber’s public-policy agenda. Before that, he was a lobbyist and senior adviser at a law firm.

Costigan did not return calls seeking comment.

”He’s not just an adviser or someone on the transition team,” Balber said. ”He will be the governor’s key liaison with the Legislature. Any key piece of legislation will be seen through the filter of big-business interests.”

Palmer, however, denied any change in direction for Schwarzenegger.

The governor-elect ”made his agenda extremely clear, whether rolling back the car tax, reforming worker’s compensation or improving the business climate so we can create more jobs,” he said.

As key jobs are filled by the governor-elect, ”I think people this week are searching for a sense of direction among his new appointments, the way people look at tea leaves,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles.

”Choosing Richard Costigan as his legislative secretary sends a message that businesses will have a strong advocate.”
Mercury News Staff Writer Mary Ann Ostrom contributed to this report.
Contact Linda Goldston at [email protected]

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