Schwarzenegger names chamber lobbyist Legislative Secretary

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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed an executive with the California Chamber of Commerce as his legislative secretary, signaling that business will have a prominent voice inside the new administration.

Richard Costigan, who served as the chamber’s chief lobbyist, previously worked as a senior adviser in the Los Angeles-based law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Prior to that he was chief of staff for Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox and also served as his director of policy.

Friday’s appointment quickly drew criticism from consumer activists worried that business would have too much influence over the new governor.

“This appointment turns over the keys to the governor’s office to every special interest group in the state,” said Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “This is from the governor who said he would drive special interest from the Capitol – he’s doing the opposite.”

In a statement, Schwarzenegger cited Costigan’s “substantial legislative experience” as the key reason he was selected.

“I am confident in his ability to work closely with legislative leaders of both parties,” said Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger spokesman H.D. Palmer said the new governor has made improving the California economy his priority.

“Job creation is not a special interest,” Palmer said. “Richard’s charge is to work on behalf of the governor with the Legislature and move the economic recovery agenda forward.”

In a related development, outgoing Gov. Gray Davis appointed Resources Secretary Mary Nichols to the California Coastal Commission.

The appointment is one of many that Davis has made in the last weeks of his term, providing new positions for his senior staff. Although Gov.-Schwarzenegger could replace Nichols with his own representative, Palmer said no final decision has been made.

Nichols said Friday that although she has told members of the Schwarzenegger transition team that she would like to stay on the commission, no promises have been made.

To make room for Nichols, Davis had to ask one of his other appointees to the commission to step down, San Francisco environmentalist, Christina Desser. Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Gov. Davis, said the switch was made to accommodate Nichols’ interest in staying active in environmental issues on a statewide basis.

“She is, after all, one of California’s leading environmentalists,” he said.

The Coastal Commission, empowered with broad authority over development along the state’s 1,100-mile coastline, was created by a 1972 initiative. The Senate and Assembly appoint four voting members each and the governor appoints the other four.

Consumer Watchdog
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