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Shilling for Dollars

INSURANCE COMMISH Chuck Quackenbush, the fair-haired boy from the West Valley, was roundly scolded last week for using consumer-alert TV ads to alert viewers about, well, Chuck Quackenbush. The ads, paid for by Prudential Insurance as part of a legal settlement, were ostensibly aired to tell policyholders they may be eligible to collect a refund because of the company's illegal marketing schemes. One spot showed Quackenbush's name for 20 seconds, but listed the toll-free 800 number to file claims for only three seconds. South Bay Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa, chair of the Insurance Committee, fired off press releases saying the ads "focused too much on the messenger, and not enough on the message." That was a kind analysis compared to the tongue-lashing served by mercurial state Sen. Steve Peace (D-El Cajon), who flat out said that the thinly disguised campaign spots blatantly violated campaign finance laws. Quack's minions didn't help his cause when they fudged the facts and claimed to have consulted the Fair Political Practices Commission before airing the ads when in truth they had only talked to private attorneys. ... Ad-gate is just the latest snafu for the insurance industry's scandal-plagued shill. The FPPC is still reviewing a complaint filed last year accusing Quackenbush of halting an investigation of Surety Company of the Pacific, one of the Commish's campaign bankrollers that happens to be represented by former Gov. George Deukmejian. And in April the FPPC fined Quackenbush $50,000 for 31 campaign-law violations including understating more than $100,000 in contributions from insurance companies. Explains Chuck Bell, Quack's legal adviser, the low-tech campaign underreported donations because bean counters manually added the dollar figures instead of using a calculator.

Royal Etiquette

When Prince Andrew came to town a couple of weeks ago, Mayor Susan Hammer didn't want to risk having the colonists offend His Royal Majesty and dropped four grand on a protocol firm from San Francisco to instruct her in the fine art of royal etiquette. Darian Weltman of the Weltman Protocol Group instructed the mayor and her guests dining at the Capital Club on how to address the prince: For example, one should never simply say, "Pleased to meet you, Prince Andrew," but rather, "Pleased to meet you, Your Royal Highness." When referring to Fergie's estranged hubby in the third person, one should say, "His Royal Highness" and probably not "Fergie's estranged hubby." Weltman says the mayor performed splendidly. "She referred to him in the proper way and didn't miss a beat on it," Weltman recalls. By the by, mayoral mouthpiece Kevin Pursglove says Weltman's services and the $11,000 lunch bill are being picked up by corporate underwriters like LSI Logic and Atmel Corp.

Welcome Back And Goodbye

The dispute between the county correctional officers' union and the Deputy Sheriffs Association, now in its second decade, is heating up again. Self-exiled political consultant Vic Ajlouny has returned from the diaspora. The DSA flew Ajlouny out from his new home in Nebraska two weeks ago to lobby county officials and "get their message across," outfitting him with a cell phone and a pager toward that end. Eye-watchers may recall that Vanishing Vic departed without explanation last year when he suddenly resigned as campaign manager for Pete McHugh after the primary and hastily took off for parts unknown. One political operative who saw Ajlouny around that time described him as a nervous wreck. Ajlouny tells Eye he wanted to "get off the treadmill" by selling his Berryessa home and moving to Nebraska. "It sounds strange, but that's exactly how it happened," he insists. While in the South Bay this month, the feisty pol surfaced at a Rotary Club meeting at the Italian Gardens and also stood shoulder to shoulder with attorney and campaign treasurer to the stars Chuck Reed at a Berryessa school board meeting. There he was spotted by nemesis European-American Dale Warner, who fingers Ajlouny for soiling his good name when Warner ran for school board. Sneers Warner, "The man who has done the most to reduce the level of political campaigning has returned to San Jose." Not exactly. Ajlouny plans to return to Nebraska this week, where he says he has enrolled in a local college to study communications.

King Henry

The latest word from Milpitas is that the political fortunes of beleaguered Mayor Henry Manayan have changed for the better. With the aid of new council ally Jim Lawson (who lost to Manayan for mayor in a tough race), the mayor has wound up on the winning side of recent votes. The mayor apparently made a gentleman's agreement with Lawson, who's running in the special election June 3, that he'd endorse his one-time adversary so long as Lawson agreed to be more considerate of Manayan's proposals. Manayan says he also talked his former campaign manager Pete Galde out of running against Lawson, though Galde insists he decided not to run because he was too busy with his mortgage business. ... Still hostile toward the Mercedes-driving mayor is his next-door neighbor, Councilwoman Patricia Dixon, who has never forgiven Manayan for defeating her in 1994. Not too long ago, Dixon gave Manayan grief over his decision to let a non-city-sponsored event be called the Mayor's Charity Ball. Their public tussle yielded the humorous double entendre in a Milpitas Post headline, "Vagueness about mayor's ball raises a few questions."

Notable No-Shows

There were quite a few high-profile absences at the $98-a-head fundraiser for the Santa Clara County Democratic Party a couple of weeks ago. State Sen. John Vasconcellos was a no-show, but wrote out a check to the party nonetheless. Gubernatorial wannabe and airline magnate Al Checchi didn't make it to the shindig at the swanky Hyatt Mediterranean Center after he learned he wasn't going to be the keynote speaker. (That duty went to state party boss Art Torres, who was introduced by Vice Mayor Margie Fernandes, who had to fill in for an ill Mayor Hammer.) Checchi wasn't the only gubernatorial hopeful not to show his face. Neither did Leon Panetta, who wrote the Demos beforehand that he'd be unable to attend, nor did state Controller Kathleen Connell, who broke her hip in a roller-blading accident. Eye hears that defeated supe candidate Rosemary Kamei conspicuously made the rounds, spurring whispers that the water board member will run for supe again next year. State Senate Prez Bill Lockyer was the hit of the evening with his "Top 10 Hollywood Movies Produced by Republicans." No. 1? The English-only Patient.

No Guts

Who says San Jose campaign consultant Roger Lee has no guts? Stanford surgeons proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lee indeed has abdominal fortitude when they pulled out three feet of his intestine a few weeks ago. Lee, 44, underwent eight hours of surgery on an intestine that apparently had gotten entangled with scar tissue from having his appendix removed. Ranking Roger now sports a nine-inch scar. Though still suffering a bit of discomfort, Rodge is managing to make it into his N. First Street office a couple times a week to mastermind the opposition to the city's proposed group-home restrictions. Please, no more questions about his three-foot black intestine.

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From the May 29-June 4, 1997 issue of Metro

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