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This week's big story about the Barona Indians attempting to buy water influence in Sacramento came in for distinctly different treatments by the Union-Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. The U-T began by saying, "The Barona Indian tribe is pushing legislation that would ease environmental requirements for a controversial pipeline to link its arid San Diego County reservation to San Vicente Reservoir." The Chron's lead, on the other hand, displayed more muscle: "A Stockton-area lawmaker is pushing legislation that could provide a big break to a well-connected San Diego Indian tribe whose lobbyist is a paid political consultant for the Democratic lawmaker." Near the bottom of its story, the U-T briefly noted that "Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, R-La Mesa, who represents the area, was surprised to see [Michael] Machado, a Northern California lawmaker, involved in the dispute. Machado's political consultant, Richie Ross, also works for Barona" and left its description of Ross's involvement at that. The Chron filled in the juicy details: "Increasingly a topic of heated debate in the Legislature, Ross has unique clout in Sacramento, where he is a lobbyist who also helps steer the political careers of several Democratic lawmakers. Ross has been criticized recently for acting more like a bully than a lobbyist, and some question whether a consultant who has considerable influence with politicians should also be allowed to promote legislation for the companies, unions and tribes he represents." According to lobbying statements on file in Sacramento, Barona paid Ross's firm a total of $2000 in the first quarter of this year and another $6795 to the firm of J.K. Pedrotti. On March 25, Barona gave $6000 to the campaign of Democratic assemblyman Juan Vargas. The tribe also laid out money for the care and feeding of several legislators and their staff members. In February, it hosted Vargas aide Colin Rice for golf ($105.08) as well as Republican assemblyman George Plescia ($98.44) and his aide Brandon Waters ($98.44). It treated assemblywoman Gloria Negrete McLeod to a $53 dinner at Il Fornaio in Sacramento and bought Frank DeLima, aide to state senator Jim Battin, an $81 meal at LG's Prime Steakhouse in La Quinta, near Palm Springs.

Not-so-free speech Though it hasn't been widely noted around San Diego, that San Francisco activist who just won a Supreme Court victory against Nike, the sports-shoe giant, is actually employed here as acting director of the NTC Foundation, an outfit with a bit of a story of its own. Nike had been citing its First Amendment right of free speech to oppose Marc Kasky's attempts to sue the company in California court for what Kasky alleges were Nike's false claims about its Third World employment practices. As a result of last week's 6-3 decision by the court not to consider -- for the moment -- the issues raised by Nike, Kasky's case may now proceed. Dissenting from the majority was Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote, "Nike and other potential speakers, out of reasonable caution or even an excess of caution, may censor their own expression well beyond what the law may constitutionally demand." By coincidence, Kasky, who had directed redevelopment of San Francisco's Fort Mason, arrived here two weeks ago to take over the NTC Foundation, which he helped set up as a consultant for the City of San Diego and the Corky McMillin Companies, master developer of the Naval Training Center in Point Loma. But the foundation has gotten off to a rocky start and just last month caused consternation at city hall when it asked for at least $500,000 for maintenance of 25 or so historic buildings that the cash-strapped city said should be picked up by McMillin. Tax returns for 2001 show that the foundation spent $432,487 out of the $1.2 million it took in that year on a variety of expenses, including consultants, conferences, and the $120,000 salary of former executive director Nancy Nygren, who abruptly departed this May. Despite rumors to the contrary, board chairman Murray Galinson denied Nygren had been pressured to leave.

Paintball martyrs An ex-engineer for Qualcomm has been charged by the feds with conspiracy to "engage in violent jihad" in Kashmir. Mohammad Aatique, a Pakistani national and H-1 visa holder, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia last week. According to a justice department news release, the conspirators allegedly trained "using paintball weapons and other equipment to simulate actual combat in preparation for violent jihad." ... The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to San Diego's Leong-Kuba Sea Products, alleging "your ready-to-eat sashimi-grade tuna and yellowtail are adulterated, in that fresh fishes have been prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have been contaminated with filth..." The FDA claims that during a recent inspection, "Fillet knives were observed being stored in crevices between filleting tables," and "There were no soap or sanitizing solutions at the hand wash station." The firm was listed among the Reader's Best 2003 as Best Fishmonger to the Star Chefs: "What do Mille Fleurs, Pacifica Del Mar, the Third Corner, and Miguel's Cocina have in common? They all serve scrumptious seafood -- and they buy it from the same fishmonger." The company's Henry Graff says the firm is currently remedying the violations

-- Matt Potter

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