— Computer magnate Ted Waitt has had his share of bad luck lately. First a huge plunge in sales at his Gateway computer company, then an embarrassing story in Fortune magazine, describing the problem-filled move of the company from humble roots in South Dakota to the platinum hills of La Jolla. Now the latest blow: earlier this month Waitt was fined $2000 by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to properly report $103,500 in campaign contributions. Waitt admitted that he hadn't filed a "major donor statement," required of all contributors who give more than $10,000 a year. The penalty covered the first half of last year, during which the ponytailed Waitt failed to report he had given $100,000 to Rob Reiner's anti-tobacco "Save Proposition 10" committee; $2500 to Democratic assembly candidate Christine Kehoe; and $1000 to liberal Republican Jayne Murphy Shapiro, who was running for an assembly seat in the west San Fernando Valley. Reiner beat back big tobacco's effort to slash state cigarette taxes, and Kehoe claimed her seat in the legislature, but Shapiro, who opposed George W. Bush's pro-life stance and outspokenly favors gay rights, lost badly to Democrat Fran Pavley, the former mayor of Agoura Hills. In the second half of the year, Waitt chipped in $100,000 for Prop 39, the measure that successfully lowered the two-thirds majority requirement for school bonds. He also gave $1000 each to Republican assembly candidate Jay Lasuer (who won), Democratic state senator Steve Peace, and Democratic assemblyman Howard Wayne ... Another county resident, Melissa Seifer of Rancho Santa Fe, paid a $400 fine for failing to report $10,000 worth of contributions.

Next level San Diego assistant city manager and chief information officer Dianah L. Neff has departed for the greener pastures of Philadelphia. Last week Neff took over as Philly mayor John Street's chief information officer, a newly created position in the mayor's cabinet that pays $190,000 a year, $60,000 more than Street himself makes, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. As recently as last month, Neff was writing op-ed pieces for the Union-Tribune extolling the virtues of the city's "e-government" program, saying it "places an emphasis on a customer-friendly approach and adopts the elements of private-sector business practices to improve delivery of services." Neff, 52, told the Enquirer, "One of the drawing points for me was the mayor's vision. He believes in e-government, and he wants to take Philadelphia to that next level -- to be a player." ... As Neff departs, Patrick Graham, the 53-year-old chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, is pulling up stakes and moving to San Diego, where he will continue to operate as a transportation lobbyist...

Further review An internal audit has cleared a UCSD professor who collaborated with a Rancho Bernardo biotech firm founded by a convicted felon. But the audit also called for a review of how the University of California screens potential conflicts of interest, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Dr. Gary S. Firestein had been under review for accepting $236,000 in research money from the company; questions also arose about the way in which he disclosed the support. According to the Mercury-News, the university found that it had no rules against accepting funding from firms started by convicted felons, but that in the future, such arrangements should be better screened by UCSD higher-ups. The ex-felon in question, Michael L. Gruenberg, was still on parole after four years in prison for federal security-fraud charges when his company, MedCell Biologics, provided research support and stock to Firestein ... The American Association of Political Consultants is staging its 2002 public affairs "Pollie Awards" and annual conference in San Diego next March, featuring "the most respected journalists, speakers, and consultants from around the nation," reports Campaigns & Elections. In off-years, the awards show is devoted to "public-affairs campaigns and programs of the previous two years." ... Close observers have noted cracks developing of late in the solid front of support the Union-Tribune has lent San Diego schools Superintendent Alan Bersin. Then, in a Tuesday editorial, the paper called him "Jim Bersin."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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