That's interesting, too, that Reagan signed that bill.
Yes, and he signed the abortion bill. Beilenson's abortion bill was
signed by Reagan 1 . In Reagan's first term, he signed a huge,
massive tax increase, and because of that tax increase we wound
up with Prop. 13 2 . Reagan's tax bill created a huge surplus.
That's one of the reasons for Prop. 13 passing. Reagan was far
more liberal fiscally than George Deukmejian.
Would you like to comment on Reagan's staff? Did you work
much with them?
I think we talked about that.
[End Tape 5, Side B]
1. S.B. 462, 1967 Reg. Sess., Gal. Stat., ch. 327 (1967).
2. Proposition 13 (June 1978).
[Begin Tape 6, Side A]
LABERGE: Do you have other notes?
SAMUEL: No, I was just looking. I don't have any notes on that. I don't
have a whole lot of recollections about his staff. He was very
dependent on his staff. The staff was a regular businesslike
operation. Not too many of them stayed around after five or six
o'clock. Reagan did not have the cast of fascinating personalities
that [Jerry] Brown had on his staff when he was governor. I
would say Reagan's staff was much more businesslike, probably
more serious. I had dealings with George Steffes, who was his
chief legislative person. George was very good to deal with and
is now a lobbyist. In fact, I think he was used in one of the
Texas governor's races to be a political consultant. You probably
interviewed George Steffes.
LABERGE: You know, Tve heard the name, but I don't know if we have.
SAMUEL: If you haven't, you certainly should. I think George came up
fairly early in the administration and was the chief lobbyist, and
is now one of the better-known lobbyists in Sacramento. A very
good lobbyist, very highly respected.
L\BERGE: Who does he lobby for?
SAMUEL: George has over fifty clients. A lot of them would probably be
considered smaller accounts, fifteen, twenty, thirty thousand
dollar accounts. George has about three or four people working
for him; he's known as very good to work for. You can look in
the lobbyist book and you see. As I say, he's got over fifty
clients. Generally, business-type clients.
LABERGE: Anyone else you know that we should think about interviewing?
SAMUEL: You're going back to the Reagan years now?
LABERGE: Well, actually, we've done a lot on the Reagan years. Jerry
Brown. . . .
SAMUEL: Yes, but George has that continuity from then to now, and he's
LABERGE: Yes, he's still here.
SAMUEL: I'm sure you've probably done most of them. You've done Jack
Grose, I guess. Jack Crose-I think when [Chief Assistant to
Speaker of Assembly] Larry Margolis left, Jack Grose took Larry's
LABERGE: I know we've done Larry Margolis 1 , but I don't know if we've
done Jack Grose.
SAMUEL: But Larry is away from the scene now. Jack is still lobbying, and
is still very much a part of it. And I'm sure you've done
[Assemblyman James D.] Garibaldi 2 .
SAMUEL: Garibaldi probably knows more than anyone alive now.
LABERGE: Well, how about your impressions of Jesse Unruh, which we
never talked about.
SAMUEL: I never had any dealings with Unruh until I went to work for the
senate. In the analyst's office I never had any contact with him.
1. Larry Margolis, Oral History Interview, conducted 1989 by Carole Hicke,
Regional Oral History Office, University of California at Berkeley, for the
California State Archives State Government Oral History Program.
2. James D. Garibaldi, Oral History Interview, conducted 1989 by Carole
Hicke, Regional Oral History Office, University of California at Berkeley, for the
California State Archives State Government Oral History Program.
SAMUEL: When I was consultant to the Assembly Transportation
Committee, I never had any direct contact with the speaker, it
was always through his staff. The chief of staff or whoever
would send a. ... "The speaker wants this, the speaker wants
that." When I went to work for Mills, then I began to have some
contact with Unruh. But I only have impressions. Mills whom
you've interviewed always thought the world of Unruh.
In most of my dealings with Unruh, he was always after me
to have Mills open up a southern California office. He was
always telling Mills, 'You've got to open up a southern California
office to increase your political base." Mills never did that. He
didn't particularly want to do it and he'd blame me. He was
telling Jesse, "Oh, I'm having some problems with Bruce. We're
talking about it." I remember Unruh yelled at me a few times
One of the things Unruh was known for when he was
speaker would be to ask other members, "What do you think I
should do?" Even if he didn't particularly respect the judgement
of that member, that was something he would do, because
legislators-as do most people-like to be asked, "Do you have a
suggestion? What do you think I should do?" Even if the advice
isn't followed, it's flattering to be asked.
Unruh had a very, very persuasive personality. He was the
kind of person who, when he walked into a room, you would feel
his presence. [San Francisco Mayor Joseph] Joe Alioto had that.
Certain people. . . . Willie Brown has it. But as far as a lot of
insight into Unruh, you've talked to the people. . . . Phil Schott,
who was very close to him, Larry Margolis, Jim Mills, Jerry
Waldie-these four people can tell you as much about Jesse Unruh
LABERGE: Well, the other thing we haven't talked about is the press.
SAMUEL: I have just a few observations. My impression is the press has
become much more influential in recent years, as the image of
the elected official has declined. Did I tell you the story about
LABERGE: I don't think so.
SAMUEL: Okay, because it's a roundabout way to one of my observations
on the press. Frank Chambers was Governor Pat Brown's chief
lobbyist for many years. After Brown lost to Reagan, Frank
became the lobbyist for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the
BART lobbyist. I got to know Frank then because I was
consultant to the Assembly Transportation Committee. Frank
would come across as very rough and crude, and he was using
foul, ten-letter words before that was in vogue. He had a real
rough tongue. But it was Frank Chambers; you just accepted it
because it was Frank. In fact, he was a very well-educated man.
He had been in the seminary, but he would play the part of the
buffoon. However, he was very effective.
Years later, I guess sometime in the seventies, when I was
working for Mills, Frank was in my office and he was saying
something. ... It doesn't matter what he was talking about, he
was trying to tell me something. I must have had a vacant look
in my eyes, because he looked at me and said, "Bruce, I know
what you're thinking. You're thinking you've heard it before.
You're thinking you've heard Chambers say that before. Well, let
me tell you something about this place. If you say something
often enough around here, even if it's not true, it sometimes
I think there's a lot of that in Sacramento. A rumor starts
and it really has no foundation; but it keeps getting repeated, it
takes on a life of its own, and it does become true. There are
situations where the press will start repeating that rumor, giving
it more currency. There are people in the press who are, in a
sense frustrated, frustrated politicians and legislators.
A classic example, I think, was Ed Salzman. I first met Ed
Salzman in the sixties, when I was with the Assembly
Transportation Committee. Ed was a reporter for the Oakland
Tribune. Perhaps you've heard the name Ed Salzman.
Oh, I have. I've read some of his articles in the California
Ed Salzman was a frustrated legislator. When he was with the
Oakland Tribune, the assemblyman from Hayward was Carlos
Bee, who was also the speaker pro tern, the presiding officer in
the assembly. An effective legislator, very well liked. At one
time he ran for the speakership. Ed used to go in and talk to
Carlos Bee. Ed had all kinds of ideas, especially in the area of
transportation. He would talk to Carlos and say, "Gee, Carlos.
What do you think of legislation to do such-and-such?" And as
the conversation would evolve, Bee would come back and say,
'You know, Ed. That's a good idea. I think I'm going to
Ed would run a story, "Carlos Bee today said he may
introduce legislation doing such-and-such." Next thing you know,
Bee would be putting in the bill. He put in the legislation to
create an elected BART board. I think Salzman was involved in
getting Bee to introduce that legislation.
He would introduce bills as a result of a conversation with
Salzman, with Ed making the suggestion. Before Bee knew it, it
was his idea. And then Ed would be running the story; it would
play in his district. So, you also have some press people who try
to influence policy. And it is not unusual for reporters to go
from the press corps to the legislature's staff.
Let's see. Today the president pro tern's press secretary is
Bob Forsyth, who used to be with the Sacramento Bee. I'm
pretty sure Bob was at the Sacramento Bee, and Bob recently
announced he's going to San Francisco to be Frank Jordan's press
secretary. Willie Brown's press secretary is Jim Lewis, who also
used to be a Sacramento Bee reporter.
Reporters will go to work for the legislature because of the
money. Reporters aren't paid that much. But reporters are
reporters because they like their profession, and very often they
wind up being unhappy in the legislature and they go back to
reporting. They find it very difficult doing things as a legislative
press person, things that they're really not comfortable with.
How is it different from being a regular reporter?
Well, a regular reporter's job is to report the facts as they are and
not to misrepresent the facts or put a special spin on them.
Generally speaking. . . . Let's see. There have been several
reporters I know of who have gone to work for the legislature,
have stayed a while, and then gone back to reporting. Basically,
they missed the money, but they like the freedom they have as a
Also, Sacramento press people are in an enviable position.
They're not working out of their home office. They're in
Sacramento. They have a degree of independence that they don't
have as a reporter working at home. They don't have a city
editor looking over their shoulder. They often determine what
they're going to cover, so they have far more freedom up here.
In the old days, the press was often very much a part of the
legislative playground. They drank with the legislators, they
played cards with them, they caroused with them. That really
isn't the case now. There's much more of a personal and social
separation, and with that has come a much harder coverage of
the legislature from the legislator's point of view. They are less
inclined to overlook certain things; they have become more
Do you think that's good or bad?
It sounds like it sort of changed at the same time the legislature
Yes. Probably one of the greatest changes was when it went to
being a full-time legislature. Many members moved their families
to Sacramento and Sacramento became their home while they
were in session. They did far less commuting; it became far less
of a collegiate fraternity and more of a regular, normal work life.
L\BERGE: Well, one person whom we've talked to is Mary Ellen Leary. Did
you know her?
SAMUEL: I know the name. She was with Pat Brown a long time.
LABERGE: She is a journalist.
SAMUEL: She's a writer.
LABERGE: She was in Sacramento during the days when it was a part-time
legislature. She had a hard time, because the only way to get the
stories was to go out to the bars and it was very uncomfortable.
She did it, but it was uncomfortable for her to do that.
SAMUEL: Also, there's much less drinking now, and a lot of that is in the
last three, four years. People are drinking less now. It's socially
acceptable to go to a cocktail party and drink Calistoga [Mineral
LABERGE: And that's just the times, don't you think?
SAMUEL: That's the times. That's nationwide, that's not just the political
arena. It's societal.
LABERGE: One note on the press. In 1981, there was an attempt to remove
press desks from proximity to lawmakers?
SAMUEL: That was because Jerry Zanelli was mad at Dan Walters. I
remember . . .
L\BERGE: Jerry Zanelli who was the executive officer?
SAMUEL: Jerry Zanelli was the executive officer; Jerry had replaced me, but
I had stayed on with Rules Committee. Actually, I remember that
well, because Zanelli was mad at Dan Walters and the press.
Jerry made that decision, and it created a tremendous amount of
political heat. Roberti flew from Los Angeles to Sacramento, to
meet with the press to announce he was going to rescind that
Fll never forget it, because I met with Roberti before, and
Zanelli was there. I said, "When you meet with the press, David,
you may not want to have Jerry there. It may make sense that
he not be present." Zanelli looked up and said, "I agree," and
Roberti said, "I agree." So Zanelli was not present. Roberti met
with the press and they talked about it.
The relationship between Zanelli and Roberti was extremely
close. At one point, some member of the press asked, "Well, why
did Zanelli do this?" And Roberti said, "It was a Rules Committee
decision; it was not Jerry Zanelli." Now, I don't know. ... At
the time, maybe Roberti believed it was a Rules Committee
decision, I'm not sure, but it was a Jerry Zanelli decision to do
that. It was changed because of the reaction of the press, and I'd
Why was he mad at Dan Walters?
Oh, Dan Walters had run some columns. Legislators are very
thin-skinned as a rule. I know Mills for many years was upset
with Becky Lavalle. She was a wire service reporter. I finally
got them together for lunch and after that he liked Becky. But a
legislator will often like a reporter, think, "That's a pretty good
person." Then suddenly that reporter will write something that
does not cast that particular legislator in a favorable light. The
legislator feels, "I've been stabbed by a friend." Well, they may
be friends, but when it comes to writing, that friendship does not
exist if it's a good reporter. If s often hard for legislators to
understand that, and what happens, they become comfortable
with the reporter, and without thinking, they say things that they
wouldn't normally say.
I always made it a policy when I spoke to reporters to say,
"This is off the record. I'm off the record." I had what I
considered some very good friends in the press; I considered some
of them personal friends. But still, when I talked to them in a
business capacity, I would say, "This is off the record. If it's
going to be on the record, tell me." Or I would say, "All our
conversations are off the record until you tell me it's on the
record. If it's on the record, fine, but just let me know."
LABERGE: And they always respect that?
SAMUEL: Yes. If it's a good reporter, when it's off the record, it's
respected. And when it's off the record, it's not that you're
necessarily going to say anything that you shouldn't say, but
you'll say things in a way that you don't want them quoted
verbatim. You would say the same thing, but in a different way
for quotation. If s just a matter of how it is articulated.
LABERGE: So did you have to deal with the press a lot?
SAMUEL: Yes. I had quite a few dealings with the press.
LABERGE: And when we're talking about the proximity of the press desks,
what kind of space is that?
SAMUEL: In the senate they were on the senate floor. Let's see. They had
a row around. . . . Yes, they had press desks back on the senate
LABERGE: Any more anecdotes like that or any other notes that you have?
LABERGE: Okay. Then I have just a couple of final things to ask you. How
effective do you think the legislature is in responding to
L\BERGE: Sure, let's start with today.
SAMUEL: Well, I think we can deal with it in the totality. I believe the
legislature has become less effective in recent years and at the
same time California's problems and needs have grown very
rapidly. So you have a less effective legislature being forced to
deal with greater problems. It's more or less like an unstoppable
force meeting an immovable object. I don't know how they can
deal with it; I don't know if they're capable of dealing with it. I
don't know if a so-called citizen-legislature is capable of dealing
with it either.
LABERGE: In the past, you feel that. . . .
SAMUEL: Well, in the past, I think California was more manageable. The
problems haven't been this great. The welfare needs, the prisons,
Proposition 13, the failure to meet our infrastructure needs, lack
of classrooms, and suddenly, no new taxes. Everyone has taken
the "no new tax" pledge. Now maybe the fear of not being
reelected will not have the same impact with a legislator who
knows he is only going to serve six years. I just don't know. It
remains to be seen whether term limits are going to result in a
more effective legislature. I think you will find more attorneys
coming to Sacramento now. Years ago, when we had a part-time
legislature, there were lots of attorneys. When it became a full-
time legislature, there were less attorneys. Now I think you're
going to get more attorneys again.
LABERGE: Because they know it's a set time?
SAMUEL: Well, an attorney is in a type of business where he can leave; he
doesn't have to be in his office nine to five [o'clock] every day.
You may very well find special interest groups, such as doctors,
attorneys, what have you, say they want to make a contribution
to good government by permitting members of their industry or
profession to go to Sacramento to serve the public for six years.
Now, the extent to which they will be serving the public good or
the special interest who is permitting them to go to Sacramento
and perhaps become a partner in the law firm when they come
back, or partner in the medical business, I don't know. I think
that's one thing that can happen that will not lessen the special
interest influence. But the only way we're going to find out
whether Prop. 140 is a positive thing is through experience. No
one knows for sure what its ultimate effects will be.
LABERGE: Well, did you have any rewards in working for the state? More
rewards than strains? I don't mean monetary.
SAMUEL: Well. ... I was just thinking "rewards" somehow is. ...
LABERGE: There's a better. . . .
SAMUEL: There's a better word. No, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It
was an incredible experience. I enjoyed all my jobs, I think I was
able to make some positive contributions; I witnessed a lot of
fascinating things happening.
LABERGE: What about the strains?
SAMUEL: I don't think the strains. . . . They're not that great. At least to
me, it was the kind of job that through experience, there's maybe
seventeen different types of crises, or twenty-four, eighteen,
whatever it is. After a while, you automatically react in a certain
way. Now the problem is at some point the string runs out and
that reaction under that particular situation is not the best way to
react. But I think you do get used to the pressures.
There's pressures in all jobs, and I think there are few jobs
as fascinating as those working in the legislative arena. Why do
you have people like Willie Brown and others who could make a
lot more money doing something else? You know, money is not
the ultimate reward.
Jim Mills can look back and say there are things that he
has done that will be there long after he dies. Those trolleys
would not be running in San Diego if it weren't for Jim Mills.
Isabella wouldn't be in the rotunda if it weren't for Jim Mills.
[Laughter] Little things and large things.
I'm so glad you told that story. Anything else that you would
want to add?
I can't think of anything.
Okay. I'll just close it with thank you, very much, for all your
Most of it, you know, is you say something that. . . .
That triggers something.
That triggers something, yes.
[End Tape 6, Side A]
[End Interview 3]