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Speaker Fabian Nunez joins GOP lobby firm in Sacramento

November 26, 2008 |  9:55 pm

If you can't beat term limits, switch to lobbying, which has none. Plus, such private service pays a whole lot better than public service.

Former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has found a new job:

California House Speaker Fabian Nunez joins the Republican dominated lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs run by Steve Schmidt who also ran John McCain's losing presidential campaign

He's gonna become the Democrat in residence of a Republican-dominated consulting firm, Mercury Public Affairs of Sacramento and elsewhere, after being forced by term limits to leave the Legislature at the end of this month.

Which -- oh, look! -- is this weekend. Which means the former speaker will soon be getting paid to woo the folks he was just leading. Pretty sweet.

After six years in the Legislature, including four as probably the most influential Assembly leader in recent history, Nunez suggests in a letter to supporters that he would be a valuable Sacramento asset for clients who deal with state government.

“As I prepare to leave office, it is becoming increasingly clear that what is best about the Legislature are the people you work with and the relationships you build,” he wrote.

Known for a youthful charm, Nunez’s ability to build those relationships led to legislative successes and made him a prodigious fundraiser. But he was criticized for using poor judgment in spending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money on foreign travel, fine wines, expensive meals and luxurious hotel stays.

Did we mention he's becoming a lobbyist?

Nunez's new firm has offices nationwide and is run in Sacramento by Republicans with strong ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a consistent Nunez ally.

Steve Schmidt, Mercury's California chief, was the bald consultant at the helm of John McCain’s losing presidential campaign and ran Schwarzenegger’s successful reelection in 2006.

Adam Mendelsohn, another partner, is the governor’s former communications director. Along with former corporate executives, Mercury’s top echelon also features onetime advisers to former Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York.

With a Democrat taking office in the White House and the potential for a Democrat to step into the California statehouse in two years, the 41-year-old Nunez brings Mercury a useful party background and access.

A native of San Diego, where his father was a gardener, Nunez was political director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He won the speaker’s post in 2004, two years after his election to the Assembly.

With Democrats on the political ascendance, the same kind of shifts are becoming visible among the legions of lobbyists and association heads working in Washington, too.

The Times' political veteran Michael Rothfeld has more on this story right now over at L.A. Now.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Los Angeles Times