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— "Jesus says, 'Sell all your things and follow Me....' That's always been the most moving thing in my life." So said termed-out assemblyman Juan Vargas in a June 23 Union-Tribune piece about his future plans the same month he was defeated by incumbent congressman Bob Filner in the 51st District Democratic primary. Vargas told the newspaper he might become a missionary. But it looks as though Vargas won't be selling anything other than the insurance industry's official line now that he's been hired by Safeco as vice president of external relations. Vargas, who chaired the assembly's insurance committee, and his staff were often accused of being cozy with insurers. The assemblyman took hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions; both he and his staff accepted plenty of gifts. This September 29, for instance, when Vargas went golfing with his brother Javier, the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies paid a $95 "caddy fee/gratuity" for each and spent $175 in greens fees at the exclusive Pebble Beach course they played on, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed by the group. On September 30 of last year, chief aide Colin Rice got a $290 round of golf at the posh Spyglass Hill course from the same entity. But Rice isn't following his boss into the insurance industry. Instead, he's signed on with Cornerstone Strategies, run by Art Castanares, ex-aide to state senator Steve Peace, who remains close to his former employee. The firm's clients include Padres owner John Moores's JMI Realty and the Joint Labor Management Committee, which recently got the San Diego City Council to ban "big box" retailers such as Wal-Mart.

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