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An affiliate of the controversial San Diego-based diet-drug company Metabolife -- already California's sixth-largest donor of soft money to national political campaigns -- has written a $25,000 check to a committee set up to benefit the U.S. Senate bid of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Metabolife International, Inc., is one of several big-money givers to the National Democratic Party's "New York Senate 2000" committee, which was created to allow Hillary Clinton to collect corporate donations and those greatly in excess of the $2000 limit imposed on individuals. According to an account last week in the Washington Post, others giving to the Clinton soft-money committee include Chicago-based TV mogul Fred Eychaner ($20,000) and Sandra G. Wagenfeld and Francine E. Goldstein of Westport, Connecticut, identified as "Democratic activists in the aviation industry," who each kicked in $80,000. So far, a total of $350,000 has been collected by the committee. Metabolife is said to be seeking the Clintons' help in dealing with federal drug regulators ... San Diego city councilman Juan Vargas, a big backer of cost increases for the new Padres stadium, has suffered an embarrassing setback in his campaign for the 79th District state-assembly seat being vacated by Denise Ducheny. Over the weekend, Dwayne Crenshaw, who is running against Vargas in the Democratic primary, picked up the "pre-endorsement" of the California Democratic Party, to be ratified at the party's state convention next month.

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