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Newsom Chooses Insider Lobbyist as New Chief of Staff

Effective January 1, 2021, Governor Newsom’s team announced that Jim DeBoo will serve as Executive Secretary and lead the ​Office of the Governor alongside Cabinet Secretary Ana Matosantos. DeBoo has made a quick lateral from being a registered lobbyist to a member of the governor’s inner circle. Newsom will now be without veteran Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary who served for two years. In true style, O’Leary continued her service through mid-January helping ensure a seamless transition.

In December, Ann O’Leary issued an abrupt resignation letter. O’Leary’s resignation is the most recent of notable exits from the governor’s office. In the last year, Newsom lost his Communications Director, Nathan Click, his Legislative Affairs Secretary, Anthony Williams, in late August, and before that, senior strategist, Daniel Zingale in early 2020. O’Leary was seen, in Newsom’s own words, as a “national leader in the fight for working families and a best-in-class crisis manager.” 

With these losses and his new appointment, Newsom’s office looks out of touch with the average Californian. Newsom is in a precarious position. Recall signatures are too close for comfort, yet he panders to affluence. Connections to powerful people are not anathema to Newsom.  A 2018 LA Times review of campaign finance records identified eight of San Francisco’s best-known families as being among Newsom’s most loyal and long-term contributors. In seeking a replacement, Newsome chose Jim DeBoo. More recently, the LA Times cited the decision to go with Deboo as a “change in approach for the governor.” 

With Deboo, we get a recognized protégé of Newsom’s French Laundry dining partner and friend Jason Kinney. Kinney, now a partner for Axiom Advisors, has made a lucrative and powerful––some say shady–– career making deals on many levels of government. His resume includes a role as an undeclared foreign agent and Chief Speechwriter to former Governor Gray Davis. Newsome is so overtly calculated that he’s hiding it in plain sight. See his photos at French Laundry for proof. 

Newsom’s new hire has made many non-profit leaders uneasy and raises serious questions about who the governor really represents. “The optics are just terrible,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, the world’s largest AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles. AHF was the sponsor and primary funder of both Props. 10 and 21, which addressed local rent control initiatives. The CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters,’ Mary Creasman, believes that Newsome will have to overcompensate for DeBoo’s “history of partnering with the oil industry to fight against climate justice candidates.” She added that the  “governor has to prove that this hire is not going to weaken his drive on the climate crisis” especially as both drought and wildfires become more and more pressing to Californians.

A Politico article highlighted DeBoo as an insider with the ability to navigate the messy California state legislature, but also noted his past work that advanced the interests of the oil industry and even helped elect Republicans. Coming during a profound economic and public health crisis, Newsom’s choice reinforces the notion that his office is a mess of bureaucratic dysfunction and aristocratic indifference.  The disparities between rich and poor could not be starker in California. The crises facing the state do not need repetition.

Weinstein continued: “Given the tremendous work [they] still have to do on state’s housing and homelessness crises, which have understandably been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. DeBoo simply lacks the tools, understanding, and skillset to effectively guide [Newsom] toward successful outcomes on these critical issues.” With the crises mounting, Newsom must right the state of the state soon.

Born and raised in the East Bay, and a fifth-generation San Franciscan. He has studied and worked on three continents and lived in eight countries. Kyle lives and works in San Francisco.

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