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— When Susan Golding was mayor of San Diego back in the '90s, she developed a reputation for having a revolving-door staff. One of those who bucked the trend was Ric Grenell, a GOP operative and former aide to ex-house speaker Newt Gingrich and New York governor George Pataki who showed up in Golding's city hall offices in 1998, about the time she was ramping up her ultimately failed campaign for U.S. Senate. After Golding left office, Grenell became chief of public relations for John Negroponte, George W. Bush's United Nations ambassador. When Negroponte became Bush's ambassador to Baghdad, Grenell worked for his successor, ex-GOP senator John Danforth.

But unlike his easy time in San Diego, where Union-Tribune reporters seldom probed such irregularities as Golding's sweetheart stadium deal with Chargers owner Alex Spanos and her secretive taxpayer financing of the 1996 Republican convention, Grenell was regarded with contempt and suspicion by the U.N. press corps. The Village Voice picked up the story a year ago this September: "Several sources in the UN press corps who spoke on condition of anonymity describe the U.S. spokesperson as 'rude,' 'arrogant,' and a 'bully,' neither popular nor a particularly good source," reported the Voice. " 'He's unbearable,' says one journalist. 'Very pushy and very demanding,' says another. Grenell is said to complain incessantly, hectoring correspondents and their bosses and trying to 'mold' wire stories to fit his message. He yells at anyone whose slant doesn't follow his, says one source. 'He yells at people whenever he is uncomfortable, particularly foreigners,' says another." And, "in a well-publicized incident this past January, the press had gathered to interview diplomats, and the Mexican ambassador was taking too long at the microphone. Grenell began pressuring a UN staffer to give the mic to Negroponte, saying, 'Who cares what Mexico has to say?' " (He later denied it.)

Earlier this month Grenell left his U.N. post and returned to San Diego to work for Titan Corp., the giant defense contractor whose merger with Lockheed was derailed earlier this year by a federal investigation into whether the company bribed foreign customers, a matter still unresolved. On top of that, translators who worked for the company were accused of taking part in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prisoner-torture scandal. With all of its problems, the controversial Grenell might seem an odd choice to be Titan's PR front man. But he still has a close relationship with Susan Golding, who herself was put on Titan's board of directors by her close friend Gene Ray, the company's chairman, president, and chief executive officer, as well as a big donor to GOP causes.

Jerry's kids Ex-Democratic governor Jerry Brown, now mayor of Oakland, has set up a campaign committee to run for state attorney general in 2006 and is picking up financial support from a group of old backers in Rancho Santa Fe, some of whom have been involved in past financial scrapes. One is Sol Lizerbram, cofounder of FPA Medical Management, a once-high-flying outfit that in 1998 plunged into bankruptcy, leaving thousands of doctors in debt. Lizerbram's currently chairman of HealthFusion.com, a doctor-related Internet company. Lizerbram gave Brown $100; in June, HealthFusion contributed $5300. Another donor is Blaine Quick; Quick's wife Bobbie was Brown's San Diego campaign chairman when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1982. He gave $3000. Both Lizerbram and Quick have been business associates of Richard Silberman, once secretary of business in the Brown administration and ex-husband of onetime San Diego mayor Susan Golding. She divorced him after he was convicted in federal court in a drug-money laundering case. According to a January 2004 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lizerbram, Silberman, and Quick each have provided "business expansion consulting services" for a Nevada corporation by the name of Ultimate Franchise Systems, which owns a chain of pizza and sandwich joints. Another Brown donor from San Diego is Byron Georgiou, an attorney who was once Brown's legal appointments secretary and later worked for Indian gambling interests in New York and a casino ship in Texas. Georgiou, a partner of Richard Chase, the Solana Beach trash-disposal magnate who recently beat a ballot attempt to stop the Gregory Canyon landfill, gave Brown $1000. One surprise Brown backer: conservative economist and Rancho Santa Fe resident Art Laffer, of "Laffer Curve" fame, who kicked in $100.

Party labels Backers of Phil Thalheimer, who lost to San Diego city councilman Scott Peters three weeks ago, say a big cash contribution to the San Diego Democratic Central committee by Atlas Hotels, owned by GOP stalwart Terry Brown, proves that there was a conspiracy by the local Republican establishment to reelect Democrat Peters. Disclosure records show that the Democrats spent $23,044 on a mailer for Peters on October 21. Atlas had given $25,000 to the party on October 7. On October 22, Atlas gave $25,000 to San Diego Republicans and four days later kicked in another $35,000 for the GOP ... Defeated Republican assembly candidate Tricia Hunter waited until election day to report she'd received a last-minute $2000 contribution from American General Life Companies of Sacramento, a subsidiary of AIG, the giant insurer enmeshed in a kickback investigation by New York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer.

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