Anthony Williams, the State Bar’s contract lobbyist, announced today that he’s “taking leave” from his lobbying work and joining Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s staff as special counsel.
Williams said he’ll be handling issues involving state prisons, the judiciary, public safety and the many lawsuits filed against the state.
“There are a lot of interesting and complicated things going on right now,” he said. “I’ve always had my heart in public service.”
Whether Williams will ever return to his firm, the Wada Williams Law Group, or to lobbying work for the Bar, is unclear.
Speaking of interesting and complicated … after the jump.
“We haven’t put an end on it because I don’t want to put a number on it and find myself working beyond that,” he said.
Williams’ partner, Jennifer Wada, said she’s renaming the firm The W Group, Strategic Public Affairs LLC, and restructuring the former partnership. The firm’s focus will continue to be lobbying and political consulting, she said.
Whether the State Bar will continue its lobbying contract with the new W Group is unclear. Bar spokeswoman Diane Curtis said that will be a topic of discussion during the Board of Governors’ closed session meeting this week.
Wada said she’d like to keep the relationship.
“We currently represent the Bar and I think we’ve done a good job.”
The Wada Williams Law Group’s most recent filings with the state show eight lobbying clients. The State Bar has been the lobbying shop’s biggest paying customer over the last two years with payments totaling $183,450 since 2009.
Williams’ (temporary?) departure from the firm follows the governor’s veto last fall of the Bar’s annual dues bill and the re-introduction of new dues legislation on Monday. Williams said his leaving has nothing to do with the bill’s veto and recent rebirth.
“I wouldn’t have left” if the issue hadn’t been resolved, he said.
It’s widely known that the chief justice has been unhappy that Williams was also lobbying on behalf of the labor union representing court interpreters. The California Federation of Interpreters has been critical of the judiciary’s funding priorities. The union has an ongoing beef over $28 million it says the Legislature allocated for interpreter services but that the judicial branch never spent as intended.
That didn’t have anything to do with Williams’ move either, he said.
“Not at all. I haven’t even thought about that. In fact, we’ve moved on from that,” he said.
Williams starts work in Steinberg’s office on Feb. 1.
— Cheryl Miller
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