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[whitespace] Steve Kirsch
Giving It All Away: High-tech exec Steve Kirsch, a booster of campaign finance reform, gave a local state lawmaker's committee $100,000 just two weeks before a new voter-approved law would have prohibited such a generous contribution.

Public Eye

Outside the Lockbox

PROPEL CORP. EXEC Steve Kirsch, the guy who founded the Internet search engine Infoseek, is a self-professed champion of campaign finance reform. His personal charity, the Kirsch Foundation, donated more than $600,000 to nonprofit organizations advocating reducing the role of money in politics. The foundation also donated $50,000 to the opponents of Proposition 34, the "phony" reform put on the November by state lawmakers (which passed). But Kirsch is a complicated guy. While he pushes reform, he also acknowledges being one of the country's most generous campaign donors. A stalwart Al Gore supporter, he gave the Democratic National Committee $500,000 toward finding Gore a job as a journalism teacher. Kirsch backed Gore because, according to his personal website (www.skirsch.com), Gore would push the McCain-Feingold bill through Congress. "The current system sucks," Kirsch complains. "It allows wealthy people like me to get special access and influence public policy. It shouldn't be that way." But while it remains "that way," Kirsch pays to play so he doesn't have to pay more in the future. ... Eye-watchers will recall that not too long ago Kirsch donated $20,000 to ex-Assemblyman Jim Cunneen--another reformista--who authored a bill allowing Kirsch to drive his electric car solo in the carpool lane during rush hour. The latest local beneficiary of Kirsch's generosity is new Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), whose committee got a $100,000 check from the high-tech honcho Dec. 18--two weeks before Proposition 34 would go into effect limiting individual donations to state legislators to $3,000. Both Kirsch and Simitian openly say the timing of the donation was intended to avoid the new state limits. "Because of the upcoming limitation on contributions," Kirsch explained in an email to Eye, "this was a way to kick start his re-election campaign." So why did he give Simitian--who acknowledges asking Kirsch for a Christmas-time gift-- such a huge chunk of dough? I'm financing lawmakers that are likely to pass campaign finance reform," Kirsch explains.

Promised Land

Judging by his boast to get BART trains built way ahead of time during his state of the city speech last week, San Jose strongman Ron Gonzales worries not about this country's silly democratic formalities. El Gonzo boldly promised in his oratory, "[B]efore I leave office, we will start construction on full BART service to San Jose." By Eye's calculations, Gonzales is up for re-election next year and no reasonable transportation wonk believes groundbreaking for BART will begin that soon. When Eye asked Gonzales' minister of propaganda, Vice Mayor Joe Guerra, about the construction time frame, Guerra said the mayor meant groundbreaking would begin before the end of his second term in about six years. Isn't a little premature to start making promises for a second term before being re-elected by the people? Eye naively asked. "We have no doubt," Guerra sniffed, "that we'll be re-elected."

Lending Nuptials

Don't tell Sally Lieber, the Mercedes-driving Mountain View councillor, that she's rich. Or her hubby, Redback Networks product director David Phillips, for that matter. And maybe in the Silicon Valley sense of the word "rich" Lieber and her betrothed don't qualify as new economy Rockefellers. But Phillips did have enough dough in his savings account to loan his wife $200,000 for her nascent campaign for the 22nd Assembly District in 2002, new financial reports filed with the secretary of state show. Lieber stresses the word "loan." "It will need to be paid back at some point," she says. The "loan" is just a little venture capital for her to get her campaign plan started. She's already signed a $50,000 deal with American Data Management to print her literature. "It looks like this is going to be that kind of race," she muses, "where things get started pretty fast, and I want to be viable for that seat." Santa Clara City Councilboy Roddy Diridon Jr. tells Eye he is also seriously looking at the seat, but hasn't formed a campaign committee yet. ... Meanwhile, 22nd District incumbent Elaine Alquist is having her name floated around as a possible candidate for Board of Equalization next year in a popular political newsletter. Lady Al couldn't be reached for comment, but public records show she's already raising money for a 2004 state Senate run, with $103,941 cash on hand.

Manolo to You

Since moving on to the Assembly, former San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz has assumed a new identity of sorts. His website lists him as "Manolo" Diaz, which will no doubt make him seem more hardcore to the SoCal contingent of the Latino Caucus. But while Manny, er, Manolo, is brandishing a new name tag these days, he's still using his old city of San Jose biography on his Assembly website. His bio begins, "He has been a board member of the Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority since 1995 and currently chairs a task force looking into mass transit opportunities to link east San Jose with downtown San Jose. He serves on the San Jose Redevelopment Agency Board. ... He is a council liaison to the City's Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Disadvantaged Business Development Commission and Human Rights Commission."

Billy Bob

All right, everyone--hold onto your panties. Eye has learned that none other than Billy Bob Thornton is coming to town to pick up the Maverick Spirit Award at Cinequest 11 on Feb. 24. ... Thornton, who wedged his way into the critical hearts of indie cinema lovers by writing, directing and starring in the eventual Oscar-monger Sling Blade, recently revived his art-house cred by directing the critically acclaimed All the Pretty Horses ... "We're honoring him because he epitomizes the spirit of a maverick," coos Halfdan Hussey, Cinequest's executive director, who also managed to pull in Spike Lee as a speaker at San Jose's annual reel deal later this month. ... After Thornton pockets the award, he'll stick around for "A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton," where he'll take on probing questions from the crowd, one of which, hopefully, will remark on Thornton's, um, confessions made in Esquire magazine last fall ... In the gooey profile, Thornton explained, quite casually, that he enjoys wearing hot-stuff wife Angelina Jolie's panties when the two are working in separate cities. "We don't know if she'll be there," notes Hussey. But Eye readers can rest assured, a piece of her will.

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From the February 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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