Political vet Hatfield to lobby for state's 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.

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 such giants as Modesto's E&J Gallo.

In an e-mail, Hatfield said that his new assignment "came about as a result of my long-standing relationship with the California wine industry" dating back to his time as chief of staff to former San Joaquin Valley congressman Tony Coelho.

After graduating from Roosevelt High School and Fresno State, Hatfield joined Coelho's office as the congressman rose to be the top House Democratic fundraiser and eventually 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.

The Wine Institute regularly receives several million dollars a year through the Agriculture Department's Market Access Program. The money pays for overseas advertising and promotion.

The wine industry likewise has a stake in securing research funding and other earmarks in the annual agriculture appropriations bill, being considered by the Senate this week. Wineries also are hoping to fend off any alcohol tax increase as part of a major health care reform bill.