Valley politico lobbying for wine industry

WASHINGTON -- The California wine industry has added San Joaquin Valley political veteran Fred Hatfield to its already muscular lobbying ranks.

A Fresno State graduate who held congressional staff positions before securing a presidential appointment to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Hatfield now runs his own strategic advising shop. He has signed up the San Francisco-based Wine Institute as a client, newly filed documents show.

"I ... (will) help the Wine Institute with their efforts to help educate more members of Congress about their issues," Hatfield said in an e-mail.

The Wine Institute has paid Hatfield $15,000 for work this year, new filings show. Separately, lobbying records show the San Francisco-based industry group paid Dutko Worldwide $40,000, James Clawson $40,000 and its own in-house lobbying staff $99,677 since January.

The Wine Institute represents about 1,000 wineries, from boutique operations to giants such as Modesto's E.&J. Gallo Winery.

"Educating government leaders on the benefits of a thriving California and U.S. wine industry and the impact of punitive taxes, legislation and regulation has never been more relevant than it is in today's economic climate," Wine Institute President Robert P. Koch said in June, during the organization's 75th anniversary.

Hatfield added that his new assignment "came about as a result of my long-standing relationship with the California wine industry" dating to his time as chief of staff to former valley Congressman Tony Coelho. Koch also once worked for Coelho.

After graduating from college, Hatfield joined Coelho's office as the congressman rose to be the top House Democratic fund-raiser and House majority whip. Coelho resigned in 1989.

Hatfield subsequently lobbied, representing clients including Westlands Water District, and then served as chief of staff to former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. He served on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2004 through December 2006.

"I had a great experience at the CFTC," Hatfield said, adding that "it seemed like a good place for me to extend my knowledge in the financial service sector."

The staff and five appointed commissioners oversee the highly complex security futures and option markets. Originally focused on agricultural commodity futures, the commission has expanded into areas such as energy at the same time as it has bulked up enforcement.