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[whitespace] Tony West Money Matters: New campaign reports show that Indian casino tribes and Latino Caucus leaders financed damaging hit pieces against Tony West during the primary.

Public Eye

Dependent Expenditure

DURING THE NASTY March primary battle between Democratic Assembly aspirants Manny Diaz and Tony West, a mysterious independent expenditure committee, named the California Voter Project, emerged from the primordial political goop. No one from here had ever heard of the committee before, but the two controversial hit pieces it financed--one called "The Oakland Raider," which questioned West's residency, and another called "The Sacramento King," which tied him to special interests in the capital--arguably cost West the 23rd Assembly District seat. Adding to the group's mystery, the attack mailers listed a dubious return address in Santa Clara and didn't show the committee's campaign identification number, as is standard. Neither West nor the press knew who gave the California Voter Project the money to pay for the hits, though West suspected members of the Legislative Latino Caucus who were backing Diaz. This past week, the committee filed its required semiannual financial disclosure form, shedding some light on who was behind it. ... As West suspected, Latino Caucus heavies like Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) kicked in a total of $45,000 to the Voter Project. But they weren't the biggest donors: Indian tribes with casinos gave a combined $80,000. According to the just-filed campaign report, the committee (which now lists an address in Burbank, not Santa Clara) spent at least $20,000 on behalf of Diaz, making a $20,000 payment to local political consultant Darren Seaton for his help in designing the aforementioned mailers. Seaton is a close friend of many higher-ups in the Diaz campaign. During the race, West's advisers grumbled about possible collusion when they discovered that the "independent" committee's treasurer was Sacramento consultant Philip Muller, who also worked directly for the Diaz campaign. The law prohibits independent expenditure committees from working in conjunction with the candidate they're supporting. ... West's ex-campaign manager, Tom Saggau, says his old boss won't be filing a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, though he considered doing so. In fact, Saggau says, West decided to endorse Diaz after having a nice chat with him at a party central committee meeting a week ago.

Switch Hitter

When the Republicans had their convention last week, Palo Alto Councilman Gary Fazzino wasn't anywhere near Philadelphia. That's because Fazzino, once considered a rising star in the Republican Party who had potential to run for higher office, switched parties earlier this year and is now a Democrat. The Hewlett Packard government affairs specialist says he just couldn't go along with the GOP's increasingly extremist views on things like gun control. "I was feeling disenfranchised," he explains. "The gun issue was a really important one for me and the Republican Party is completely nuts on that issue. There didn't seem to be any room for a moderate representative on that issue in the party."

Baer's Lair

Palo Alto developer Jim Baer says he doesn't let candidates for local nonpartisan offices use his commercial properties for their campaigns because he doesn't want to offend anyone. At least that's what he has been telling local Democratic Party apparatchiks when asked to justify evicting supervisorial candidate Dolly Sandoval from one of his offices being leased free of charge by the United Democratic Campaign. (Baer, by the by, is backing Sandoval's opponent, Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss.) But it appears as if Baer has made an exception to his purported nonpartisan-race policy in the past. Supervisor Joe Simitian recalls having rented office space from Baer in downtown Palo Alto during the 1996 primary. And Baer himself conceded to a local party official last week that he rented the space to Simitian when the then-Palo Alto City Councilman ran for supervisor, a nonpartisan office, and even gave him a price break on the rent. (Simitian, however, recalls paying market rate.) Baer didn't return repeated calls from Eye. ... Meanwhile, local party chairman Steve Preminger says he's still trying to persuade Baer to let Sandoval use the office space along with other Democratic-endorsed candidates like state Sen. Byron Sher and Rep. Anna Eshoo. If Baer refuses, Preminger says the UDC will have to find another space.

Email Relief

Maybe San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales should have stuck with snail mail. The mayor was forced to apologize last week after getting numerous complaints about "spamming" supporters. The mayor's office had sent out an email to 200 or so people urging them to lobby the Board of Supervisors to put the so-called BART tax on the ballot. But instead of sending the e-missive using the blind carbon copy option, a mayoral staffer sent it so everyone was individually listed. This, of course, caused email traffic congestion when some people hit "reply all." One perturbed recipient fumed, "In case you are unaware this harassment has apparently caused 13 people to change their [email] addresses. My guess is they did not want to be bothered any longer by your opinions. ... Unless you want me to complain directly to my ISP, discontinue sending me ANYTHING!" Mayoral mouthpiece David Vossbrink says that since the fiasco, staffers have been taught the proper way to send email. He adds that people who requested to be taken off the distribution list have been removed from it. "We have taken steps to prevent this from occurring in the future," Vossbrink assures Eye, "and we have instructed our staff to ensure that we will not make this mistake again."

Read In Peace

It's not every day you get the chance to read a news story by a dead man. But Mercury News readers did a couple of Sundays ago when the paper released its list of the ten most influential people in Silicon Valley. Former business writer Tom Quinlan, a heavy smoker with emphysema who died on June 6, wrote the profile of Intel CEO Craig Barrett. At the end of the Barrett story--where the paper usually says so-and-so is a Mercury News staff writer--it says, "Tom Quinlan was a Mercury News staff writer until his death in June." A Merc staffer helpfully explained the posthumous byline by saying, "He wrote that [profile] before his death." Thanks for the clarification. ... A resentful valley politico who didn't make the Merc's list--he didn't even earn a spot in the top 40--couldn't believe Barrett made the top 10. "Does anyone even know who [Barrett] is?" the snubbed source ranted. The pol also was incredulous that non-locals like Bill Gates, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Gray Davis made it to the top 40. Unfortunately, the source refused to go on the record with his gripes. "It would look like sour grapes, which it is," he admitted.

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From the August 10-16, 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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