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[whitespace] xxx E-Donor: Infoseek chief Steve Kirsch donated $20,000 to local Assemblyman Jim Cunneen after the legislator successfully got a bill passed that allows the high-tech exec to drive solo in the carpool lane in his electric car.


Public Eye

Info Clique

Infoseek chairman Steve Kirsch, who is worth an estimated $300 million, is better known for his generous donations to charities than for helping politicians. But the high-tech exec found it in his heart last month to cut a $20,000 check to Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, the moderate Republican West Valley legislator who had planned to run for state Senate, but is now hoping to succeed his mentor Tom Campbell in Congress. Kirsch's enthusiasm for the lame-duck assembly member coincides with the passage of AB 71, a bill authored by Cunneen that allows solo drivers of electric cars and other low-emission vehicles to use freeway carpool lanes during rush hour. In fact, campaign records show that Kirsch wrote his $20,000 check to Cunneen shortly after Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1. The new law pertains to Kirsch because he just so happens to drive a Saturn EV1, a stylish electric car he has promoted in magazine ads. In an email to Infoseek cubicle-dwellers, Kirsch invited company employees earlier this month to an Oct. 7 Cunneen fundraiser in Willow Glen: "I'm supporting Jim Cunneen's campaign for state Senate. I worked with him personally to get AB 71 passed recently and was very impressed with his effectiveness in the Assembly." When contacted by Eye, Kirsch bristled at the suggestion that he was rewarding Cunneen for passing a law that allows the 42-year-old exec to fly solo in the carpool lane when driving from his Los Altos Hills home to his Sunnyvale office in the morning. "I don't look at it as a reward," Kirsch told Eye. "I had firsthand experience working with him [on the bill]. ... It had nothing to do with a thank-you." ... Meanwhile, Cunneen's handlers were quick to point out that Jimbo drafted the enviro-friendly bill months before he even found out Kirsch drove an electric car. According to political consultant Kevin Spillane, Cunneen learned about Kirsch's electric-car fetish in a February Mercury News profile of the Infoseek founder and later invited him to testify on behalf of the bill, which had been introduced three months earlier.

Kon Air

Former Congressman Ernie Konnyu was spied at a Town Hall meeting in Cupertino this weekend closely examining a map of the 24th Assembly District, which stretches from Los Gatos to Los Altos. Sources present at the event, hosted by termed-out Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, say Konnyu was less than shy about his intention to run for the Assembly seat next year. "He was very definite about it," a district constituent whispers. However, when Eye contacted Konnyu at his tax consulting business and asked him about his career plans, the former Reep representative was tight-lipped. "No comment," he barked. ... Konnyu--perhaps best known for his slogan, "He won't con you"--served only one term in Congress. He lost his seat to fellow Republican Tom Campbell amid allegations of sexually harassing female employees. He reappeared on the political scene in 1994 when he lost his bid for county tax assessor to Larry Stone. ... Two other Reeps have already put together Assembly campaign committees: Los Gatos Councilman Steve Blanton and Monte Sereno Vice Mayor Sue Jackson. But party leaders supposedly aren't impressed by either Blanton's or Jackson's small geographic base (Monte Sereno, for instance, has a population of only 3,400) and have been searching for a better-known pol. Barry Barnes, spinmeister for Democratic candidate Rebecca Cohn, chuckles at the idea of Konnyu being the Reep Party savior. "Is he [Konnyu] the heavyweight they're looking for?" Barnes sneers incredulously. "Bring him on!"

Political Math

Part of the art of surviving in politics is knowing when the tide is running against you and not fighting it. That's the position of Democratic Santa Cruz Assemblyman Fred Keeley. The result is that Keeley, who is also Speaker pro Tem, has given up his quest to succeed current Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa. Keeley tells Eye that Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) will likely step aside sometime in the spring, and when he does, Keeley will support current Rules Committee chair Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) to succeed him. "I wanted to continue to hold a position of influence for the central coast," Keeley says. "The best way to do that was to know how to count votes in a Speakership race." Sources tell Eye that Keeley's Boulder Creek home, currently in Republican Tom Campbell's 15th Congressional District, might be redrawn into Congressman Sam Farr's district, and that Campbell's seat could be eliminated altogether. That's one reason why Keeley isn't interested in running for Campbell's seat, and why Campbell is weighing a bid for the U.S. Senate seat of Dianne Feinstein.

Stale Male

A surprising dark horse has emerged in Palo Alto's City Council race: former 12-year City Council member and two-time mayor Mike Cobb. Considered an early shoo-in for one of four open seats, Cobb was stiffed by the Palo Alto Weekly last week in a pointed editorial that suggested the ex-mayor should make way for fresher blood. Cobb, however, doesn't seem to think fresh blood is what voters want, judging from his campaign slogan: "I like Mike Cobb for City Council--again." ... Cobb, 63, stepped down from the City Council in 1994 and was later hired by Stanford University to help push through the Sand Hill Road development project. He also hosted the Palo Alto public-access cable TV program News Watch until he was asked to step aside while running for office. Trailing in the race for campaign cash as well, Cobb has netted $8,823 so far, putting him in fifth place among wannabe council members. Cobb's platform includes a proposal to reduce the council by two seats, which may explain why so few of his former colleagues are backing his election bid.

BailOut

The acquittal of the three defendants in the Pink Poodle murder trial earlier this year was easily one of District Attorney George Kennedy's biggest embarrassments during his tenure. Adding a little salt to those wounds now is the fact that one of the defendants has returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak. Hells Angel Steve Tausan, the strip-club bouncer accused by authorities of beating drunken customer Kevin Sullivan to death, is now a regular sight outside the Hall of Justice, handing out promotional materials for local bail-bond agent Ed Mumbert. (In case readers are wondering, Mumbert was not Tausan's bondsman in the Pink Poodle case--Tausan and club manager David Kuzinich were held in custody for more than a year without the possibility of bail.) Unfortunately for Eye, Tausan is on his honeymoon and can't be reached. Assistant District Attorney Dave Davies, a senior prosecutor who was involved in the case, insists that Tausan's presence in front of the courthouse doesn't bug him. "He's as free as I am," Davies waxes philosophic.

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From the October 28-November 3, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 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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