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[whitespace] Jeff Denham Fuel for Thought: South County Assembly candidate Jeff Denham refunded motorists' gas-tax money at a gas station one day last week. His Democratic opponent, Simon Salinas, says Denham's campaign stunt was illegal.

Public Eye

Money for Free

AS PUBLICITY STUNTS GO, giving money away is a crude but effective way of getting attention. But in politics, handing out money can also be illegal. Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas, the Democratic nominee for the 28th Assembly District seat, is accusing his Republican opponent, agribusiness fella Jeff Denham, of essentially trying to pay voters to support him during a campaign stunt last week. If so, Denham believes voters in the farm district (which includes Gilroy and south San Jose) can be bought off yard-sale cheap. ... One day last week, Denham offered 15-cents-per-gallon refunds to motorists at a Salinas gas station between 3 and 5pm as a protest of the state's gas tax. Jeffro, coincidentally, also hung up a few campaign posters just in case people needed to make sure Ed McMahon wasn't accosting them. According to campaign consultant Chris Jones, Denham--armed with lots of nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills--gave away between $100 and $200 of his personal funds to gas-guzzlers. He also managed to get some free airtime on KSBW's newscast. ... Salinas' propagandist, Greg Sellers, quickly sent out a press release saying the cash giveaway broke state election laws that prohibit--in his words--candidates from giving money to voters. "It was a silly, illegal stunt that doesn't help commuters," Sellers sniffed. At this point, Sellers says he hasn't decided whether to ask the district attorney to look into the matter. "It's not something we want to focus on," he insists, "we just felt it was important to point it out." Meanwhile Denham issued a statement through his consultant accusing Salinas of dungslinging. "Simon Salinas should be ashamed," Denham lectured. ... As for the legality of the gas-rebate stunt, Denham's accomplice for the day, So-Cal Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Camarillo), says he has co-hosted such tax-rebates throughout the state and has been given the green light by the Fair Political Practices Commission. "I would have given [Salinas] a quarter to make the phone call [to the FPPC]," Strickland sneers, "so he would have seen that everything is legal."

Campaign Deform

So, exactly what has Assemblyboy Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) done to deserve a visit from Republican presidential runner-up John McCain lately? Especially after Jimbo so bravely endorsed reep front-runner George W. Bush during the primaries, when McCain could have actually used the help. For whatever reason, Sen. McCain will be in Silicon Valley on May 31 appearing with Cunneen at a town hall meeting at Mission College. From there, the new lovebirds will navigate their way to the nearby Marriott Hotel, where McCain is headlining a $150-a-head fundraiser for Cunneen (pretty cheap considering the max individual donation is $1,000). McCain is touring the country making fundraising appearances on behalf of Republican candidates in marginal districts, currying favor with party leadership in preparation for a future presidential bid. Which, of course, is why he's going to be here for Cunneen, who is running for Congress against Assemblyman Mike Honda (D-San Jose) in a race being closely monitored by both parties. Insiders predict that after the final check clears, both sides will have spent millions of dollars in both hard and soft money. But Reep consultant Kevin Spillane helpfully reminded Eye that both Cunneen and McCain are staunchly in favor of campaign finance reform.

Patrol Hole

The thief or thieves who ripped off a 1990 Ford Mustang parked near the Great America train station a couple of weeks back didn't yank just any ol' Mustang--the perp(s) stole an undercover police car belonging to the Santa Clara Police Department. Department mouthpiece Sgt. Anton Morec says the coupe later turned up in the city of Alameda sans seats and the drop-down red light. "They gutted the interior," Morec reports, "but everything else was intact." So why was the undercover car not safely parked inside the police station parking lot? Morec explains that a handful of commuting cops who arrive in town by train use the vehicle as a shuttle between the train station and work (about a four-mile drive, he says). In this case, a cop who commutes from Tracy had parked the car near the train station over the weekend. Morec says city automobile technicians plan to spend about $1,500 to fix the interior and hope to auction it off for up to $5,000. Oh, by the by, police have no suspects as to who pulled off the heist. Either a very brave or very dumb thief.

Four to a Flush

Funny how 55 criminal indictments and a political maelstrom can put a damper on business plans. Just ask the proprietors and creditors of Garden City Casino, mired in bankruptcy proceedings for nearly two years. Those creditors get screwed out of a stack of chips if the political climate remains cloudy. As it stands, the club owes $7 million to landlord Ernest Pestana and about $3.5 million to everyone else, according to bankruptcy attorney Michael Isaacs. Court-appointed trustee Frederick Wyle has been trying to sell the club for the past few months without success. And with San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales threatening to shut down the city's two card clubs for good--even though no Garden City employees were indicted--it seems more unlikely than ever that Wyle will be able to sell the troubled gaming room. "It's been terrible for the club," Isaacs laments. "The city is just destroying our opportunities right and left." Still, Isaacs says recent negotiations to sell the club to businessman Nick Kouretas--cousin of the late restaurateur Pete Kouretas, owner of Zorba's--broke down before the indictments and ensuing hysteria happened. Isaacs professes not to know the financial details of the failed buyout. Suffice it to say Pestana and other creditors might be wishing now they had folded their hands when they had the chance.

Plop Art

It's been quite some time since Eye has deigned to participate in Quetzalcoatl-related toilet humor. But San Jose's most infamous and expensive piece of plop art, located at the south end of Plaza de Cesar Chavez, is getting prominent play in Eastside Supervisor Blanca Alvarado's new website (www.blancaalvarado.org). The home page of the fancy new site offers surfers the chance to view a flash animation program starring Quetzy, who is described at one point as "the divinity of peace and compassion. "A compassion not extending to the tens of thousands of virgins sacrificed in his name," chuckles Eric Carlson, the man behind Soft Underbelly of San Jose (sjunderbelly.com), a website devoted to poking fun at the city's public art misadventures which lists Quetzy as "the God of bad statuary." Carlson also observes, "No image of Thomas Fallon floated up with similar messages of love [on Alvarado's site]."

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From the May 18-24, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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