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An influential evening

August 05, 2004

S.J. CAHN

A quick search of the Daily Pilot (and its sister paper, the Los

Angeles Times) for the name "Buck Johns" pulls up a scattering of

familiar descriptions: GOP fund-raiser, Lincoln Club director,

developer, one of the county's most influential Republicans.

You can add affable, incorrigible host to that list.

Johns hosted a get-together Monday night -- nothing unusual for

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him. What was unusual was his allowing me past the gates and up his

long, winding, American flag-lined driveway.

The occasion was Johns' pitching of a business venture to about

100 folks. And not just any venture. This one is to build a dam

across the Congo River, the fifth longest in the world, in the

Democratic Republic of Congo. It would be near the mouth of the

river, where the water drops unusually quickly. As a result, Johns

estimates, a dam there could provide power for the entire African

continent (a claim I found elsewhere, as well).

Johns has experience in this area, having helped back the High

Desert Power Project in the Victor Valley.

All those details aside, particularly fascinating about the

evening was how it proved an old saw we tell job candidates: Our

readership includes some of the most influential, powerful people

you're likely to run across.

I think this claim tends to roll right off them because, well, if

our "influential people" somehow aren't in magazines, movies or TV,

their influence is harder to see.

Johns fits this bill. A short list of people milling about his

pool includes Rep. Ed Royce, an expert on Africa; Rep. Buck McKeon;

former Orange County Republican Party Chairman Tom Fuentes; a city

councilman and the city manager from Victorville (where the High

Desert Power Project is); Olympic swimming champ Brian Goodell; and

the guest of honor, Jean Pierre Kalema Losona, Democratic Republic of

the Congo energy minister.

It was an evening for people like this to get together in one

place, get to know one another and, possibly, get on the same page

regarding a $30-billion-or-so project. And at its center was Johns,

making jokes as people stood in line for dinner and introducing most

of the crowd at one point or another.

It was, I realized at one point, how a lot of things get done, how

major business deals are made. There was much talk, including by the

energy minister (who spoke in French), about friendships and people

counting on one another.

It was networking at its highest, most powerful levels.

And watching it happen was illuminating.

Getting the terms right

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