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— The Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich didn't do all that well in this week's California primary, but he did get points from some for simply showing up in San Diego, which was largely ignored by more mainstream candidates. And for political history junkies, the price of his campaign collectibles turned out to be the best bargain of the election season. At his rally last Thursday on the steps of the Tin Fish restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, $5 purchased a Kucinich for President T-shirt, white plastic beverage mug, large lapel button, and bumper sticker. After spending about an hour or so regaling the small crowd that had gathered in the colder-than-seasonable evening air, the liberal anti-war congressman from Cleveland was whisked away in a small blue van to give a speech at the University of San Diego. Later he attended a fundraiser in a private home on La Jolla Scenic Drive South, the residence of Mitchell and Françoise Ginsberg. He's a humanistic psychologist, licensed family therapist, and author of The Inner Palace: Mirrors of Psychospirituality in Divine and Sacred Wisdom-Traditions. She got her doctorate from the University of Paris, where she worked as a women's counselor of sexology, according to their website. The couple also hosts regular tantric sex workshops, the site says: "We are deeply respectful of the sacredness that is present in sexuality at its most nourishing and healing levels. Our teachings emphasize the integration and harmonization of our sexuality in all of its aspects (physical, energetic, emotional, healing, and spiritual). Practical instructions and exercises we use help in the development of the open, loving heart of mindfulness. This consciousness is then applied to rituals whose intimacy and intensity are beyond our usual experience of sexuality, giving us a taste of what the tradition has called the highest ambrosia.... Françoise and Mitchell have been married for 23 years and offer tantra classes and private sessions in both America and France." Price of admission: $50 per person, the same as a ticket to Kucinich's fundraiser ... Casa Casuarina, the rococo Miami Beach mansion where fashion designer Gianni Versace was gunned down in 1997 by Bishop's School alumnus and onetime Hillcrest denizen Andrew Cunanan, is now open for business as an upscale party rental. The New York Times reports that businessman Peter Loftin, who coveted the place even before Versace's murder, bought it for $19 million afterwards and currently charges $10,000 a night to host high-end soirées.

Bipartisan juice Republican congressman Duncan Hunter's "Peace Through Strength" political committee continues to raise large amounts of money from big defense contractors and distribute it to the campaigns of fellow GOP congressmen around the country. Among the donors over the past six months: Huntsville, Alabama's Francisco Collazo, Colsa Corp., $5000; Jerry Hodge, Maxor National Pharmacy Services, Amarillo, Texas, $5000; Allen Hunter II, Trex Enterprises, Kihei, Hawaii, $1000; Jerry Oldenettel, Trex Enterprises, Albuquerque, New Mexico, $1000; Anne Pol, Trex Enterprises, San Diego, $1000; Kenneth Tang, Trex Enterprises, San Diego, $1000; Gene Ray, Titan Corp., San Diego, $2000; Sycuan Indians El Cajon, $3000; and Francis Shottes, SisCorp, Vero Beach, Florida, $1000. Trex, a high-tech outfit based in San Diego, has long done a lucrative business with the Pentagon. The L.A. Times recently reported that Shottes and SisCorp, his lobbying firm, had repeatedly lobbied Democratic senator John Kerry on behalf of San Diego-based Science and Applied Technology, whose owner Parthasarathi "Bob" Majumder pled guilty last month to funneling tainted contributions to Kerry and four other members of Congress. From 1996 to 1998, Shottes gave Kerry a total of $4000 in campaign contributions, the paper reported. Kerry in turn wrote 28 letters in support of Majumder's firm.

Have campaign, will travel Thanks to friendly districts drawn up by the California legislature to favor incumbents, a lot of politicos who don't have to face tough reelection fights have another problem to worry about: how to spend all that special-interest money they collect at the year-round fundraisers they throw. Part of the solution, recently reported by the Sacramento bureau of the Associated Press, is to hit the road. Among local legislators, the top spender of campaign money for personal travel was Dede Alpert, who is leaving her 39th district senate seat this year because of term limits. She spent $10,457 on a trip to Iceland, which she said covered air fare. The Icelandic government reportedly paid for the rest of what she described as an "exchange visit" with government officials. "We never use any state money for any of these trips. You wind up being [questioned whether] this is worthwhile enough to use government funds.... I enjoy it, I admit. I like going and seeing other places and seeing how they may do their education [system] or how they do their energy issues. It's an enjoyable way of learning." Other locals who traveled on their campaign tab, according to the survey, included GOP senator Dennis Hollingsworth of La Mesa, $9325; Democratic assemblyman Juan Vargas, $5372; Democratic senator Denise Ducheny, $3227; and Republican assemblywoman Shirley Horton of Bonita, $1547.

-- Matt Potter

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