Governor makes pro-business pick;

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Chamber of Commerce executive named Schwarzenegger’s deputy chief of staff.

The San Francisco Chronicle

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filled another top-level position in his administration Wednesday with an executive from the California Chamber of Commerce, the state’s leading pro-business group and a frequent critic of consumer legislation written by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Cassandra Pye, 44, joins the Schwarzenegger administration as the deputy chief of staff in charge of external affairs. She has spent the past 12 years in various positions with the chamber. Most recently, she has been vice president of corporate affairs, working chiefly as the chamber’s political coordinator.

“Cassandra has worked her entire career to improve California’s business climate and brings valuable expertise to my administration,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Pye, a Republican, also has worked for the California Retailers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the California Grocers Association. In a statement, Pye said she was “excited to bring my experience with California’s employers and key industries to the governor’s administration as he works to bring jobs back to California.”

Two weeks ago, Schwarzenegger hired the chamber’s lobbyist, Richard Costigan, as his new legislative secretary. He becomes the central liaison with California lawmakers as Schwarzenegger pushes his agenda to balance the state budget and reform workers’ compensation insurance – an issue important to the businesses represented by the chamber.

Costigan’s appointment Nov. 7 brought a rebuke from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a consumer group, which warned that “big corporations shouldn’t be the gatekeepers of society’s policy matters.”

“The Chamber of Commerce is the biggest special interest in Sacramento,” said the group’s consumer advocate, Carmen Balber. “If its top lobbyist is appointed legislative secretary, all legislation will be forced to pass through the filter of the Chamber’s values: Commercial gain always outweighs social costs.”

But Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said he didn’t think the chamber connection had anything to do with Pye and Costigan’s appointment to the Schwarzenegger administration. Instead, he said, their “strong abilities, their hard work, and their common sense got noticed.”

Schwarzenegger has said repeatedly he won’t be submitting to special interests while conducting his work as governor. Early in his campaign, Schwarzenegger said he was wealthy enough not to care about campaign contributions, and he vowed to rid the Capitol of special-interest politics.

On his inauguration day, Schwarzenegger attended a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. At the event, the new governor joked that he would be seeking their support — and their political contributions — during the next three years. The chamber endorsed Schwarzenegger during the recall campaign.

Schwarzenegger did not announce the public salaries that will be paid to Pye and Costigan.

Consumer Watchdog
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