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June 27-July 3, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Bill for Breakfast

Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't exactly caught fire in Silicon Valley. Her talk to high-tech executives at Applied Materials in Santa Clara three weeks ago was about as exciting as a nonprofit executive's speech at a Kiwanis club. So deploying her secret weapon —the country's most popular political figure —to the region with a reputation as a candidate's ATM seemed like a good idea. Usually, photo ops with Bill Clinton generate a half-mil or more from throngs of rich people who want to tell their grandkids they shook a president's hand. Our embedded sources say, however, that organizers were sweating it down to the wire at last Sunday's breakfast on Saratoga's Quito Road, and that the event probably only raised half that. Of the three event hosts, Assessor Larry Stone (boo!) and Mike Fox Sr. lived up to their reputations as top-tier fundraisers, but the third member of the troika, Cindy Chavez, came up light. San Jose Councilmember Madison Nguyen helped save the day with a five-figure last-minute effort, and Michael Luu says he collected around 50 grand in checks, signaling the growing importance of the Vietnamese-American community to national Democratic politics. Not satisfied with the underwhelming financial performance, Hillary's campaign organization seemed determined to exact some public relations damage as well, turning away contributions, and not inviting Assemblymember Jim Beall into the VIP area despite his $2,000 personal contribution and work with the Assembly speaker in Sacramento on Hillary's behalf. Organizers also boasted that they turned down Steve Wright's request to attend, referring to the microponytail-sporting, earring-wearing editorial page editor of the Mercury News. Even Fly's generous offer of a $500 contribution to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, later amended in moment of weakness to a rejected campaign contribution to the Iraq war cheerleader's presidential campaign, bought us nothing more than quality face time with the Secret Service and a distant glance of the tieless president exiting his limo. So why did the greeting committee, which originally offered pay-to-play passage for $500, decide to hand us back our gold card? "There was just no press allowed," says Justin Shaw, who's just "helping [Ms. Clinton] raise money" but personally orchestrated the disinvitation. Some readers may remember Shaw as the Napoleon who managed Chavez's disastrous mayoral campaign last year—and who attempted to exclude nonfawning press (buzzzz) from the candidate's election night party. First Amendment champion Shaw later bragged to associates that he would be heading up San Jose Councilmember Nora Campos' office, but that opportunity imploded as well. Meanwhile, official campaign staff are remaining tight-lipped about the fundraising totals. "We're not allowed to talk to press," they reveal. Heck, with that kind of policy, Justin Shaw will probably land on the senator's short list for press secretary!

Gonadectomies For All!

Last weekend, Sen. Joe Simitian hosted a public forum addressing A.B. 1635, titled the "California Healthy Pets Act," which would make it illegal for people to own pets older than four months that have not been spayed or neutered unless the pet owner has a special permit. While the purported intent is to reduce the number of strays that end up euthanized at California animal shelters each year (proponents of the bill say 500,000, opponents say the number is significantly less), the proposed solution—to require permits to breed animals and levy fines (up to $500) on so-called "intact" pets older than four months—has a strange, regulatory smell to it that reminds Fly of a nanny state we once knew. And it's all happening just when the "SHYB" command for male dogs was catching on (as in, "Show Him/Her Your Balls! Good boy!") Opponents of the bill say four months is too young for some animals, that the number of strays has been decreasing and that regulation is not the answer. With only a few exceptions, the bill limits breeding to professional breeders, who often expect to sell their litters for top dollar, which could conceivably open the door for people like Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, who authored the bill, to fill the void with their own budget master race of animals, which may or may not bear a striking resemblance to the aquiline-featured California congressman. Levine's spokesman Alex Traverso calls the whole master race thing "absurd," which is what we were thinking when we made it up, too. Traverso points out that most of the opposition to the bill comes from breeders who don't want to pay the fees for the permit, which also requires a tax ID, meaning that many of them would actually have to get one. He also told Fly that it doesn't mean animal control will be knocking on your door asking you to "lift up your dog's leg and let us check it out" or require vets to snitch on their patients. Enforcement will mostly be done by animal control catching intact dogs on the loose, for which the owner will be fined $500, which can be easily reduced to a $10 "fix-it" ticket. With the future of the genetic makeup of California's cats and dogs hanging in the balance, Simitian said the feedback he got at the forum taught him that the issue was more complicated than it seems, and that more study is necessary in order to take a position on the bill, which he expects might be further amended in the near future. Which is a nice way of saying people are insane in the membrane about their pets.

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