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— With a recent court decision to lift campaign-contribution limits statewide, members of the San Diego City Council are busy raising big money from local special interests, according to recently filed campaign-disclosure statements. Byron Wear, who is facing what is shaping up as a serious challenge to his re-election this year, is tapping members of the wealthy Spanos family, getting $250 each from Dean Spanos, son of Alex Spanos, and Dean's wife Susan. Poway contractor Doug Barnhart, who built the new $10 million Chargers headquarters at taxpayer expense, chipped in $250. Wear also collected $1000 from four members of the influential Bartell family of Rancho Santa Fe, who own hotels throughout the city. Larry Cushman, brother of controversial car dealer and ex-Chamber of Commerce chief Steve Cushman, who owns a big chunk of Mission Valley, gave $250, as did Sea World curator Ann Navarra. (Sea World is seeking a lucrative lease renewal from the council.) Bazaar del Mundo owner Diane Powers, one-time partner of ex-con Dick Silberman, and her employee Cynthia Furlong also kicked in $250 each. Altogether, Wear collected $46,000. Not too far behind in the contribution derby is Councilwoman Valerie Stallings, who raised $22,400 from an assortment of special interests including Larry Cushman, along with $250 from George Heisel, manager of Rural/Metro Corp., which has the much-critiqued city paramedic contract. On the stadium front, Qualcomm executives Richard Sulpizio, Harvey White, and William Bold each gave $250, as did Miller Beer distributor employees Mark Alan Lindner and Gerry Hark. William Henry Butler, an executive with the giant Montgomery Watson engineering firm, which is getting almost half a billion dollars from the city's sewer-reconstruction program, including its sewage-into-drinking-water plans, gave Stallings $250. Councilwoman Barbara Warden reported raising $14,000, a big portion of it from the Pardee housing-development clan. Other $250 Warden donors include Padres owner John Moores, his wife, and his two children, as well as his daughter's husband, whose occupation is listed as a Padres coach.

Craft, not art

Who says politics isn't crafty? Left-wing independent Congressman Bernie Sanders is coming to Craftsmen Hall at 3909 Center Street at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, Valentine's Day, not Carpenters' Hall as previously reported ... City hall watchers are marveling over the political acumen, not to say chutzpah, of City Attorney Casey Gwinn, who told city councilmembers they could grab all the freebies they wanted at the city's stadium box without technically breaking the law. Republican Gwinn, who is said to aspire to higher office, then went on to say he wouldn't take the free food and alcohol himself, generating big headlines and leaving the hapless councilmembers looking somewhat less than sterling ... Leonard Pitock, the San Diego man charged in connection with the operation of a Kansas City-area prostitution ring, was back in Missouri court last week, pleading not guilty to a single misdemeanor count of promoting prostitution. Lenexa, Kansas, police had originally charged Pitock, who lived in La Jolla, in connection with a prostitution ring in Platte County Circuit Court, but those allegations were thrown out by a judge who said testimony showed the allegedly illegal activity happened in Johnson County. Pitock, who now reportedly lives in Solana Beach, posted $1500 bail and will return for a hearing next month.

Super bills

Stories of unpaid Super Bowl bills from some of the town's leading citizens are starting to surface. Inside observers say that, as was the case with the Republican convention, some local hosts outspent their party and liquor budgets by vast amounts and now are dodging creditors ... Federal investigators are said to be snooping around San Diego city hall, looking for evidence of "yield burning," a complex practice "which occurs when municipal-bond issuers pay inflated prices when reinvesting tax-exempt bond proceeds in taxable Treasury securities," according to a published account.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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