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It's only money When you're the president of a big taxpayer-funded state university in California, you get plenty of perks. Take the case of San Diego State's Stephen Weber, who has gone on more than a few junkets, work-related and otherwise, over the past 27 months. For instance, there was his trip to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Beijing, China, in October of last year to speak to "Chamber of Commerce representatives," attend a "High-Tech Fair," and have a "Meeting with China Ministry of Commerce." State taxpayers picked up $212 of Weber's tab, according to records the university released in response to a California Public Records Act request, but that's just the beginning of the story. A memo accompanying the bill says that "travel arrangements were made by and most anticipated expenses will be paid by a private party. The President will be traveling with Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante. The above amount to be paid from State funds reflects an estimate of the cost of staying in Hong Kong for one night." It turns out that the trade mission was financed in part by the downtown law firm of Luce Forward, along with Tatum Partners, a business consultant, along with county taxpayers. "China is the future," Weber was quoted as saying in a news release at the time.

Besides foreign travel, Weber has also jetted around America. In August 2003, he spent $626 going to Dallas to meet with "major donor" Norman Brinker, a onetime Jack in the Box franchise operator. Then there were repeated trips to Sacramento to visit state lawmakers. In August of last year, Weber spent $288 to attend a "California Senate presentation to Senator Alpert." That May he went to the state capital for "CSU Budget Advocacy Day," costing $169. The same month it cost taxpayers $684 to put Weber up for three nights in a posh $190-plus-tax Newport Beach hotel room for a "CSU Executive Council retreat." That July he was off to Salt Lake City for a "Mountain West Conference retreat" and Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a "Business-Higher Education Forum summer meeting," grand total: $639.

Some of the trips appear to be more work-related than others. In August of 2003, Weber went to Chicago for "Appeal of NCAA ruling on infractions," cost: $1074. That September he traveled to Spokane, Washington, and San Francisco for "Director of Athletics candidate interviews," cost: $1116. The same month he went to Phoenix for another athletic director interview, cost: $435. In August 2003, the records show that Weber requested reimbursement for $661 to watch SDSU play Ohio State in Columbus. In November, he spent $860 on a trip to New Orleans for a "meeting to discuss the Bowl Championship Series." The hotel room alone cost $284. In February 2004, he put in for a $684 reimbursement for a trip to Miami Beach to discuss athletic business with the Mountain West Conference.

Last December, he went to San Francisco to receive a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, at a cost to taxpayers of $720. In March of this year, Weber claimed $1917 for expenses racked up during a lobbying excursion to Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

The same month, he was off to Phoenix for a "Business-Higher Education Forum meeting," cost: $698. In April it was back to Sacramento for "CSU Legislative Day" and a night at the upscale Hyatt Regency across from the capitol, cost: $431. The same month Weber put in a reimbursement request for a day in Los Angeles as a member of the "Union Bank of California Community Advisory Board." Even though that was a private function, his "Request for Absence from Campus" justified the trip on the grounds that "President Weber's service on the board supports improved relations between SDSU and the local community." The cost of getting up to L.A. and back, including $165.40 for a night's lodging, was $369. This June, Weber went to Anaheim to attend a "Presidential Leadership Forum," cost: $286. And in July, it was time again for CSU's three-night "Executive Council Retreat" at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, cost: $809.

Politics as usual Forty-ninth on the list of most munificent corporate political action committees is La Jolla's Science Applications International Corporation, the federal contractor famous for its controversial defense contracts in Iraq. During the most recent reporting period, the company gave a total of $174,500 to congressional campaigns: $74,000 (or 42 percent) to Democrats and the rest to Republicans. When the 58 PACs that gave the most money are ranked according to percentages of their contributions made to each party, SAIC came in as 10th most generous to Democrats and 46th to Republicans. ... Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Vietnam War ace, is serving out his last term in Congress following an FBI probe into his financial ties to high-rolling defense contractor Mitchell Wade. But disclosure records show that Cunningham was still raking in campaign contributions even after the controversy came to public attention. On June 16, four days after the story broke, ex-GOP congressman Bill Lowery -- now a Washington lobbyist representing such clients as the San Diego State University Foundation and Titan Corporation -- gave $2000. A week and a half earlier, Lowery and his associate Jean Denton had given the congressman a total of $4000. On June 22, Cunningham picked up $7500, including $1000 each from Dewitt Hardin III and Frank Collins of the Alexandria, Virginia, lobbying firm Northpoint Strategies. On June 30, General Atomics owner Linden Blue kicked in $500.

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