— Metabolife International, the controversial San Diego-based diet-drug firm founded by Michael Ellis, who pled guilty to federal charges related to making methamphetamine in a Rancho Santa Fe home 15 years ago, is turning into one of the Republican Party's biggest contributors. Two weeks ago, the party held a "Congressional Salute" to President George W. Bush, and Metabolife was among eight "underwriters" who gave or raised at least $250,000 each, reports the Washington Post. In all, the $2500-per-plate dinner, featuring speeches by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, raised more than $20 million for the National Republican senatorial and congressional committees. Metabolife has long lobbied against federal restrictions on ephedra, an herbal stimulant linked to heart attacks, strokes, and seizures ... The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in hot water after losing track of those Oklahoma-bombing files in the Timothy McVeigh case, has hired La Jolla's Science Applications International Corp. to beef up its computers. The company will get $10 million to "enhance the agency's legacy investigative applications and databases," reports Government Computer News ...San Diegan Steve Tietsworth is suing motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson, alleging that powerful new engines installed on some of its cycles in 1999 and 2000 were defective and could cause injuries, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Trouble in Elsinore That recent announcement in the Union-Tribune about the acquisition of the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Padres Class-A farm club, by Gary Jacobs, son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, missed a sweet irony: the Diamond, a $22.8 million stadium built in 1993 for the team by the city of Lake Elsinore, went so wildly over budget that the city's redevelopment agency was forced to tap into the general fund for cash to finish it. By 1996, the city was paying $2.1 million on the construction bonds and losing an additional $800,000 each year on stadium operations. In 1997, the city's cash squeeze got so bad that nine city parks were closed and the city staff was likewise slashed. By 1998, the state auditor singled out Lake Elsinore for "questionable" bond-financing practices, and in 1999 one councilman was led to say, "We just keep going further and further into debt." Then last year the outfit that developed and managed the stadium announced it was backing out of its contract and suing the city over a disputed housing project that was supposed to have been built as part of the stadium deal. This March, the North County Times reported that the City of Lake Elsinore filed a $10 million breach-of-contract suit against the developer, alleging the firm had "manipulated" and "commingled" assets in an attempt to defraud the city. "We built that stadium on the reliance and promises that the developer would build the [housing] project," Lake Elsinore city attorney Barbara Leibold told the paper. "It was always contemplated as being part of a much bigger project."

Son and father Missing from all the media hubbub about those "photo enforcement" traffic-light cameras: the founder of the company that originated them is Alan Viterbi, son of Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi. He started his firm, U.S. Public Technologies, in 1988 and, in 1999, sold it to Lockheed Martin, where he became a vice president. Both of the Viterbis are big givers to Democratic senator Joseph Lieberman, who backs high-tech causes close to their hearts, including easy visas for foreign engineers ...Visitors to Bjossa the killer whale at Sea World may want to bring along some extra hankies. The Vancouver Sun reports that Bjossa, who arrived here in April from the Vancouver Aquarium, still has a respiratory infection requiring daily doses of antibiotics. "The treatment may take months or years, or sometimes it's never resolved. Chronic-lung diseases require chronic care. It's the nature of the beast," a Sea World vet told the paper ... Newspaper cartoonists are still buzzing about the firing of Union-Tribune cartoonist Steve Kelley after a spat with the paper's editorial writers. "Cartoonists always seem to lose those battles," David Horsey, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists told Editor & Publisher.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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