The preacher to a one-man choir
To hear labor groups and many Democrats in Sacramento tell it, you would believe that California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg is the most powerful man in town. A former top adviser to Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, Zaremberg has long been well connected in Republican political circles. He was savvy enough to also get on the good side of Gray Davis after Davis broke a 16-year string of GOP control of the governor's office in 1998.
But the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger has elevated Zaremberg to a whole new level. The Chamber of Commerce made an unprecedented endorsement during the recall campaign and was among Schwarzenegger's earliest and most enthusiastic backers. Last year, with only one or two significant exceptions, if the chamber wanted a bill vetoed, Schwarzenegger obliged.
Zaremberg held a briefing yesterday to discuss the chamber's legislative priorities for 2005. I asked him whether it was true what his critics say -- that he holds undue influence over the governor of California. His response:
"When he came and asked for our endorsement, he gave an impassioned speech about improving the job climate in California. I believe he's carrying out the campaign promises he made — and those things are our agenda. These are the things we believe in.
"I don't find that we exert any more influence than anyone else. It just happens that he shares the same agenda."