Dan Walters

Dan Walters
April 30, 2015
Observations on California and its politics
dwalters@sacbee.com

Gambling and liquor interests wielded a big stick in the state Capitol during the mid-20th century.

Lobbyists for horse racing and liquor companies – especially the legendary Artie Samish – practiced what he called “select and elect” to guarantee that their clients would continue to enjoy state-enforced monopolies.

Earl Warren, the state’s governor during the 1940s, said of Samish, “On matters that affect his clients, Artie unquestionably has more power than the governor.”

The syndrome continued even after Samish went to prison for income tax evasion in 1956.

Legislators would, figuratively at least, sell their mothers to obtain seats on the “Governmental Organization” committees that handled gambling and liquor interests, which showered members with campaign contributions.

James Garibaldi, a former legislator dubbed “The Judge” for another previous occupation, became the dominant lobbyist for horse tracks and liquor wholesalers, as an adjunct to the law firm headed by former Gov. Pat Brown.

When Garibaldi died in 1993, the longtime chairman of the Senate GO Committee, Ralph Dills, wept as he announced it on the Senate floor.

By and by, liquor and gambling faded as dominant Capitol issues. The courts invalidated misnamed “fair trade” liquor laws as illegal, state-enforced price-fixing. Indian tribes, operating outside the Capitol, gained control of legal gambling.

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