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Hottest rumor to hit the Padres ballpark beat: a well-known, very wealthy, highly influential Republican "Mr. X" has quietly told certain members of the San Diego City Council to torpedo any deal with Padres owner John Moores, a well-heeled Democrat. According to this scenario, Mr. X, a powerful sports mogul with long-standing ties to the city's and state's Republican establishment, is the "hidden hand" behind attacks by city councilman Juan Vargas against the proposed ballpark's finances. Mr. X and his representatives are said to be reassuring Vargas and his fellow councilmembers that it's okay to trash Moores's deal -- even at the risk of having Moores threaten to leave town or sell the team. If that happened, Mr. X and his Republican friends say they would step in and take the team off Moores's hands for a song. Then Mr. X would do the deal for a taxpayer-subsidized ballpark that Democrat Moores and his effusive sidekick Larry Lucchino didn't have the clout and finesse to get through city council. Downside of the plan, at least for die-hard Padres fans: Moores could thumb his nose at the Republican cabal and move the team out of town anyway. In an interview with Bloomberg Sports News last week, Moores vowed never to sell the club, then threatened to strip down the team like the Florida Marlins and move it to northern Virginia if he doesn't get his way here. "We could win it all, just like the Marlins, and then break the team up, that would be it," Moores is quoted as saying. "We might have to suck it up [and continue taking losses] for a year so we could handle the move with some grace." Besides Virginia, other possible destinations for the Padres: Mexico City and Vancouver, British Columbia. Mr. X is said to be assuring the council that he could arrange for a new baseball franchise if Moores pulled the plug here, but others aren't so sure that Mr. X wouldn't be just as happy if the city had only one major-league franchise -- the Chargers -- under Republican ownership, of course. The Moores interview, picked up by newspapers coast-to-coast, carried the byline of Barry Bloom, until recently a veteran Union-Tribune reporter who quietly departed the paper last month.

Clean money, dirty laundry

That ex-San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau staffer who left to become a key aide to the Reverend Henry J. Lyons, the controversial head of the predominantly black National Baptist Convention, has been indicted by a Florida grand jury on eight criminal counts, including conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering. Brenda Harris, 48, departed San Diego with Lyons right after the Baptists' 1996 convention held here. When Lyons was indicted for allegedly looting the church group's treasury for his personal needs, Harris was dragged into the fray, accused by her one-time friend and administrative assistant Renee Fagans of having a torrid affair with Lyons ... Assemblywoman Dede Alpert is pushing ahead with her bill to weaken the three-strikes law against selling liquor to minors. Backed by the state's liquor lobby, the bill would allow the erasing of a first strike if certain corrective measures were taken. Alpert says her proposal is more fair to retailers than the current situation. The San Francisco Examiner, in an editorial last week, claims otherwise. "The real problem, we suspect, is that some owners don't bother to enforce the rule that no alcohol products are ever to be sold to anyone who looks younger than 30 without checking identification."

Mr. Hospitality

The one-time dean of San Diego's hotel managers has lost a $1.3 million breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by an outfit to which he and a partner had sold their company two years ago. After Charles Giacomini, longtime manager of the Town and Country Hotel, sold his Santa Fe Management Group to ark Services of Seattle, the company sued, alleging "failure to disclose factual information." San Diego Superior Court Judge Terry O'Rourke awarded ark damages of $968,915 in addition to $400,000 in attorneys fees ... Pacific Research and Engineering just sold China National Radio in Beijing a set of two expensive digital consoles. It's the second Chinese sale for the Carlsbad company.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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