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[whitespace] Chuck Quackenbush Personal Liability: Insurance Commish Chuck Quackenbush has 'few close friends,' confides a Republican source.

Public Eye

Now He's the Quake-ster

IT'S NOT EXACTLY A SECRET in the Capitol that ethically challenged Insurance Commish Chuck Quackenbush is peeved at fellow Republicans for not defending him vigorously enough while the Senate and Assembly insurance committees whacked him with embarrassing disclosures day after day. Obviously, party leaders have their own futures to selfishly consider before rushing to aid someone who may have screwed consumers to further his own political ambitions. But a well-placed Reep in Sacramento tells Eye that there's another, more personal reason some GOP legislators aren't signing on as apologists: He's a jerk. The Capitol deep throat says the Quackatollah, a former assemblyman from Cupertino, "talks down to" lowly lawmakers and has called and yelled at a few for not showing proper loyalty in his time of need. "He doesn't have many close friends right now," the source opines, "so it must be a very scary time for him." Eye is well-acquainted with Quackenbush's proud fits of pique: Several years ago, he refused to grant an interview to a Metro reporter because, his aides said, he was offended by Eye always calling him "the Quackster." Loyal readers of course know that adding the "ster" suffix is a term of endearment in this column. ... One Reep who historically hasn't enjoyed a warm rapport with the insurance czar is Jim Cunneen, Quackenbush's successor in the Assembly. Back in 1992, the Cunester briefly considered challenging then-Assemblyman Quackenbush, but ultimately backed off. And while Cunneen hasn't been among Quackenbush's loudest critics in the party, he certainly isn't falling on his sword for him either. "It's very disturbing," Cunneen says. "It seems like there's a new revelation every day or a new document that has a link to his office." Nonetheless, Cunneen won't go so far as to call for impeachment, though he left himself some wiggle room should new, damaging testimony surface. "If there were credible evidence of serious wrongdoing," he says cryptically, "we would need to do what's right."

Dough Boy

After their narrow budget defeat to earmark $2 million a year in tobacco settlement money for children's health insurance in San Jose this week, labor apparatchiks were searching for answers as to why they lost. One popular theory: Mayor Ron Gonzales used the power of the purse string to buy votes against it, most notably from his old foe, Councilwoman Pat Dando. ... During budget season, San Jose's 10 councilors submit pork-barrel requests for money to pay for things in their districts like fixing street medians, renovating community centers, funding festivals and sprucing up parks. Dando initially voiced support for the health care proposal, but suddenly saw the wisdom of the mayor's position after Gonzales released his budget recommendations last week--with $2.43 million designated for some of Dando's pet projects. That dollar amount was the third highest among the 10 council members seeking district handouts. ... Gonzo's budget baron Joe Guerra, of course, disputes any suggestion that the mayor used his bankroll to seduce Dando. Guerra points out that while Dando got a nice chunk of change, she only received 35 percent of the dollar amount she asked for. Furthermore, Guerra sniffs, the mayor didn't--as some have suggested privately--punish council members who didn't back Gonzo's budget plan. His proof: Downtown rep Cindy Chavez, who voted against the mayor's proposal, received the most money of any council member for her district--$5.2 million. He also notes that Vice Mayor Frank Fiscalini, a mayoral ally, only got 34 percent of the money he wanted. "We've got people who are unhappy and are looking for excuses as to why they lost," Guerra asserts. "This administration doesn't do budgets that way." Guerra adds that only one council member complained after the budget recs were released: Manny Diaz. The eastside councilor, a constant thorn in the mayor's paw who also opposed Gonzales' budget plan, may have a legitimate gripe: Diaz only received 11 percent (the lowest of anyone on the council)--for a total of $1.77 million--of the dough he requested. Then again, Diaz also asked for more money than any of his colleagues--nearly $16 million.

Fore Play

The name Darius Anderson may not ring a bell for most South Bay politicos yet, but stuff it onto your personal hard drive. Anderson is a formidable Sacramento lobbyist with an enviable client list--which includes Disney, Microsoft and PG&E--who happens to be a close ally of Gov. Gray Davis (translation: he's helped raise money for the greedy guv). Anderson's lobbying firm, Platinum Advisers, has opened up an office in San Jose, albeit a very modest one. In fact, Platinum's South Bay operation is being run out of the home of Tom Saggau, the one-time campaign manager for Assembly candidate Tony West who went to work for Anderson after West lost in March. "We're going to make a big push," boasts Saggau. "We want to be the preeminent lobbying and consulting firm in the South Bay." So far, it looks as if Platinum is a long way from its goal. Saggau concedes that the company doesn't have anything going in Santa Clara County yet, though Platinum did work with the Homebuilders Association recently to help get the building moratorium lifted in Hollister. And actor Clint Eastwood and retired baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, two of the more famous owners of the Pebble Beach gold resort, have hired Platinum to handle a ballot measure to build a new golf course. Of course, that's in Monterey County, not Silicon Valley, but just watch.

Side Show

First it was the great debate over whether ferrets should be allowed as pets. Then came a revolutionary bill proposing to regulate the industry of horse massage. And now coastal Congressman Sam Farr (D-Carmel) is joining forces with Price Is Right host Bob Barker to pass a bill banning traveling circus elephants. For real. Farr and Barker, a longtime animal-rights activist, held a press conference earlier this week to warn of the dangers of crazed circus elephants trampling performers and spectators. In fact, Farr says temperamental pachyderms have killed 30 people since 1983 (as well as not bothered to clean up after themselves on several occasions!). Farr and the silver-haired game show host presented a video in which a cop had to shoot a particularly enraged elephant 80 times before the animal went down. "These animals are not housepets on leashes," Farr lectured. "You cannot train them with promises of Milk Bone dog biscuits or an extra scoop of dog chow."

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From the June 15-21, 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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