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Ferreting Out Lobbyists

— Ex-Democratic state senator Dede Alpert, once mentioned as a possible San Diego mayoral candidate, is making waves in the state's capital by promoting the interests of the cable TV industry without bothering to register as a lobbyist. Though not a lawyer, Alpert works for the Sacramento law firm of Nielsen, Merksamer as "special advisor for public policy and strategic planning." Firm principal Vigo "Chip" Nielsen bills himself as a "political law advisor" and has worked for many locals, including ex-San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor. Partner Steven Merksamer, former chief of staff to Republican governor George Deukmejian, is a major player in GOP politics.

Among the firm's clients have been Californians for Ferret Legalization. When she was a senator, Alpert carried a bill, later vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to lift the state's ban on the controversial little animals. Alpert spoke out in favor of ex-San Diego School superintendent Alan Bersin during recent senate confirmation hearings on his appointment to the state board of education. Her latest assignment, for cable giant Comcast, first reported by Capitol Weekly, involves the battle phone companies are waging to offer services, including video, that are now the sole province of cable.

State law defines a lobbyist as someone making $2000 or more "in a calendar month... or whose principal duties as an employee are to communicate directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action." A loophole allows unregistered agents to discuss bills with legislators for two hours a month, Alpert says. They can also offer their clients advice on lobbying strategy. Besides avoiding the financial-reporting requirements for lobbyists, former legislators such as Alpert can avail themselves of "floor privileges," the ability to walk around on the senate floor and buttonhole their former colleagues before votes. Alpert says she has never done that. She declined to disclose how much she is paid.

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— Ex-Democratic state senator Dede Alpert, once mentioned as a possible San Diego mayoral candidate, is making waves in the state's capital by promoting the interests of the cable TV industry without bothering to register as a lobbyist. Though not a lawyer, Alpert works for the Sacramento law firm of Nielsen, Merksamer as "special advisor for public policy and strategic planning." Firm principal Vigo "Chip" Nielsen bills himself as a "political law advisor" and has worked for many locals, including ex-San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor. Partner Steven Merksamer, former chief of staff to Republican governor George Deukmejian, is a major player in GOP politics.

Among the firm's clients have been Californians for Ferret Legalization. When she was a senator, Alpert carried a bill, later vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to lift the state's ban on the controversial little animals. Alpert spoke out in favor of ex-San Diego School superintendent Alan Bersin during recent senate confirmation hearings on his appointment to the state board of education. Her latest assignment, for cable giant Comcast, first reported by Capitol Weekly, involves the battle phone companies are waging to offer services, including video, that are now the sole province of cable.

State law defines a lobbyist as someone making $2000 or more "in a calendar month... or whose principal duties as an employee are to communicate directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action." A loophole allows unregistered agents to discuss bills with legislators for two hours a month, Alpert says. They can also offer their clients advice on lobbying strategy. Besides avoiding the financial-reporting requirements for lobbyists, former legislators such as Alpert can avail themselves of "floor privileges," the ability to walk around on the senate floor and buttonhole their former colleagues before votes. Alpert says she has never done that. She declined to disclose how much she is paid.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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