McGeorge School of Law

Profile: Thomas Hiltachk

Thomas Hiltachk
Thomas Hiltachk

Class of 1987

Managing Partner, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP

Thomas W. Hiltachk, '87, has held a lifelong interest in politics and government. Law, he figured, would be the best way to learn about those areas, to be his own boss and to choose the issues and clients he cares about most. It also fit with his self-described personality as a problem-solver.

Hiltachk is managing partner at the Sacramento-based firm, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP, known for being the state Republican Party's law firm.

After graduating from McGeorge School of Law, Hiltachk started his law career at a civil litigation firm in Sacramento, practicing mostly business litigation. He then moved to another Sacramento firm as an associate, focusing on political and election law. Charles Bell was a partner there. In 1991 they left to start their own firm, specializing in election law and campaign finance law. They merged with Colleen McAndrews' practice in 1993. The firm now specializes in election, campaign and administrative law and litigation.

In 2010, Campaigns & Elections magazine recognized it as a "Top 100 California Influencer" for its work with the Republican Party.

Clients include businesses, trade associations, lobbyists and others who are trying to comply with campaign finance rules and election laws. Hiltachk counseled Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on election matters during his tenure. Issues can range from the mundane - can a client invite a public official to his plant for a tour and to eat lunch - to complex questions about the environment, taxes or health care, for example.

Hiltachk specializes in political and election law, including writing complex ballot measures about tax and constitutional issues. He helps clients qualify measures for the ballot and litigates how ballot measures are written. He also works with nonprofit organizations on formation and tax exemption issues. His job allows him to become an expert on a wide range of topics, such as criminal justice reform, the caging of egg-laying hens and genetically modified food.

"I really enjoy the unique subject matters that pop up from time to time," he says, "and the idea of being a problem-solver."

Hiltachk was involved in the qualification and passage of the Three-Strikes law in 1994. He also was a major player in the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the election of Schwarzenegger.

Hiltachk also is involved in his profession. For about the past decade, he has been a board member of the American Association of Political Consultants and was president of the California Political Attorneys Association from 2004 to 2005.

Hiltachk's work in politics and government also has taken him overseas. In 1996, he worked as a U.S. election observer in the Russian presidential election, visiting more than 20 ballot locations. He was stationed in Rostov-on-Don, a city of about 1 million people about 760 miles south of Moscow. While the mechanics of voting in Russia and the United States are nearly identical, the atmosphere was not. He saw the people's jubilant mood, which surprised him. It was a stark contrast to the low voter turnout that often characterizes California elections.

"What I didn't expect to see or feel was (how) it recharges your batteries about the importance of elections and how fulfilling it is to see people who frankly hadn't got to vote much in their life," he says. "When that opportunity is not the norm, they take it very seriously and that was kind of cool to see."