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— Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, fresh from his snowboarding getaway in ritzy Ketchum, Idaho, is heading for the warmer clime of La Jolla Farms. This coming Tuesday he's set to have a fundraising luncheon in the lavish home of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, friend and contributor to both ex-governor Gray Davis and former president Bill Clinton. Listed among the "honorary hosts" are Assemblyman Juan Vargas, San Diego city councilwoman Toni Atkins, and Davis ex-chief of staff Lynne Schenk. "Chairs" include ex-UC president Richard Atkinson and wife Rita, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, and lawyer Wade Sanders, who's lately been getting plenty of new mileage out of his old war stories about skippering a swift boat in Vietnam, as did Kerry. Yet further down, listed as "hosts," are the likes of school-district chief Alan Bersin, labor honcho Jerry Butkiewicz, and lobbyist Bernie Rhinerson. Billionaire Burkle, who also has a big house in L.A. as well as other places, was featured in a New York Times story last week describing how Clinton gets a fee for pitching Burkle's Yucaipa Company to pension funds as an investment. In the case of California's state pension fund, the paper said, the Yucaipa investments "have so far not produced returns." ... San Francisco financier Warren Hellman, father-in-law of UC president Robert Dynes and sometime business partner of Padres owner John Moores, has pulled his annual bluegrass festival out of Golden Gate Park and taken it to Oakland in a fit of pique over a judge's order blocking construction of a parking garage he favors in the park. "I am just humiliated to be in Golden Gate Park right now," Hellman told the San Francisco Chronicle this week. "I don't feel like being a half mile from something that I've worked so hard on to create, and now these people are in the process of destroying." Meanwhile, Hellman and son-in-law Dynes, ex-chancellor of UCSD, will serve together on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's new "California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth."The privately funded group has already drawn fire from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a liberal-leaning advocacy group, for including some of the governor's richest campaign contributors, most of whom are seeking to undo state regulation of their businesses. Dynes's wife Frances Hellman has been a physics professor at UCSD. Other San Diegans on the group include Poway builder Douglas Barnhart and Alliance Pharmaceutical's Duane Roth.

Into the fire Ex-San Diego Unified School District public relations man John Spelich got plenty of practice under fire two years ago while defending his boss Alan Bersin against the slings and arrows of irate parents dissatisfied with Bersin's education-reform efforts. Now Spelich is working for the Walt Disney Company, defending boss Michael Eisner from shareholders mad at low earnings and anti-sweatshop groups who claim that Disney obtained some of its branded clothing from sweatshops in Bangladesh. Spelich, who now lives near a Del Mar golf course, said, "The company did not make any garments directly," the New York Times recently reported.

Legacy Every day on its front page, the Union-Tribune now features a small box with a color aerial photo of the new downtown baseball stadium, accompanied by the number of days left until the structure's grand opening next month. It will be a day of great joy for the managers of the paper, who pulled just about every journalistic string imaginable to convince city taxpayers to fork over a big chunk of the $300 million or so the elaborate complex cost to build. U-T executives are said to be preparing to chow down on a scrumptious spread in one of the stadium's well-appointed skyboxes. But another calendar count of sorts going on at the U-T is not being carried on the front page, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the paper. It's the number of days that publisher David Copley, said to be suffering from a chronic heart condition of an undisclosed nature, has not returned to the office after reportedly having undergone major surgery at a local hospital. As of this week, Copley had been out for most of the year, and his lengthening absence is stirring new rumor and speculation by the day. Though nobody in the newsroom will talk for the record, the latest word has it that the 52-year-old publisher may have undergone a procedure at Sharp Hospital to implant a "ventricular assist device," developed by fabled Houston heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey. According to the website of the VAD's manufacturer, "The device, designed for end-stage heart failure patients who can no longer provide necessary blood flow with their native heart, is the size of a 'C' cell battery, is silent, weighs less than four ounces, and was designed by NASA for long-term use." In most cases, according to the literature, the patient must ultimately have a heart transplant or die. A Sharp spokeswoman said she would look into the situation but by press time hadn't called back.

-- Matt Potter

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