Monday, 05 March 2007 15:02

“Recovering” politician says industry needs allies

Active Image   Don Feeley, Russ Bogh and Kelly McCarty exchange a few words at the CAA annual meeting. Former assemblyman Bogh shared insights into his time in Sacramento during a speech he gave at the meeting. “You are a special interest in Sacramento,” Bogh told the delegates, “ and you need to make friends.  It’s hard (for legislators) to say ‘no’ to friends.”


Delegates to the California Autobody Association’s 40th annual convention got a lesson on how to get things done in Sacramento from a self-professed “recovering politician,” former Assemblyman Russ Bogh. Bogh, who was the number two Republican leader in the Assembly until term limits forced him to leave, supported CAA’s unsuccessful legislation in 2002 to prevent insurance companies from owning body shops, SB1648.

Bogh explained how you sometimes have to be “a little over the top” to get attention in Sacramento, and credited the zealousness of CAA past president Don Feeley, Jr. with getting him to first look at, then understand and ultimately push for the body-shop favored legislation. “You are a special interest in Sacramento,” Bogh told the delegates, “ and you need to make friends.  It’s hard (for legislators) to say ‘no’ to friends.”

Tough year ahead

“It’s probably going to be a tough year for you in Sacramento.” Bogh went on to explain that State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) had been the outspoken advocate for the industry and as chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee wielded a lot of power. “She’s gone now (term limits) and you need new friends.”

Bogh explained that, due to term limits, assemblymen and senators only have six years to accomplish something in the capitol, and they usually develop a specialized interest in one area of public policy – “preferably one that gets a lot of press.”

Bogh suggested that one good way  to get the attention of legislators is with personally written letters and personal visits to their district offices. “Write a letter that explains a particular bill and say, ‘my business will be forced to lay off X people in your district if this bill passes.’ That’s driving your point home. Form letters are of no interest to us. Like e-mails, they just get tallied pro or con on an issue. You won’t get a personal response.”

Questions from the floor

A shop owner from Los Angeles asked, “If Sacramento is controlled by consumer-friendly Democrats, why is the insurance industry so powerful?” Bogh responded that Democrats get campaign contributions from insurance companies just like Republicans. “Look carefully at who chairs the insurance committee.  It’s usually a moderate, business-friendly Democrat. That way, if pressured by their insurance friends, the Dems can say ‘Don’t worry we’ve taken care of you.’”
    When asked by a delegate if you can really expect to persuade a Republican to vote for a Democrat-sponsored bill, Bogh answered. “All I can tell you is this: It’s easy to go partisan (vote the party line) when you don’t know the issue. Make sure they know your issue.”

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