The Washington Post is drawing heat for giving $100,000 to the Bush Inaugural '05 committee, which has already raised a record $20 million or so toward its record goal of $40 million from private donors, mostly big corporations seeking favors from the administration. Closer to home, cell-phone giant Qualcomm of La Jolla, founded by billionaire Democrat Irwin Jacobs, has kicked in $100,000 for the Bush bash. Chargers owner, Bush stalwart, and Stockton developer Alex Spanos has contributed $250,000, this year's maximum limit. Donors are promised tickets to the best parties in town tonight, along with plenty of quality face time with regulators and legislators.
Spanos gave $1 million to the GOP convention and $5 million to a 527 group (a tax-exempt group organized under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities) that helped defeat John Kerry. As an underwriter, Spanos will reportedly sit down to lunch with Bush and V.P. Dick Cheney, as well as attend a VIP-only candlelight dinner. Jacobs, who gave $25,000 last year to the Democratic National Committee, seldom if ever writes his own checks directly to the GOP. But he and other members of his extended business family are big contributors to Q-PAC, Qualcomm's political action committee, which then turns the cash over to both Republicans and Democrats.
For instance, 74-year-old Richard Atkinson, the retired president of the University of California who gave ex-UCSD professor Jacobs his first big break and has been on the Qualcomm board since 1991, donated $5000 last summer. His wife Rita did the same. Ex-Reagan administration foreign-policy wonk Brent Scowcroft, another member of the board, came up with $5000, as did fellow director Diana Lady Dougan, ex-ad woman and former assistant secretary of state under Reagan. The money was sprinkled around to an array of causes, including $1000 to Blue Dog Democrats, the party's conservative congressional wing; $10,000 to house speaker Dennis Hastert's "Keep Our Majority PAC"; and the same to New York Republican congressman Thomas Reynolds's "Together for Our Majority PAC." Five thousand went to house majority whip Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs Fund." Incoming senate minority leader Harry Reid got $5000 for his "Searchlight Leadership Fund," named after his hometown in Nevada. Kentucky Republican congressman Hal Rogers, a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, took home $5000 for "Help America's Leaders PAC" -- HALPAC for short. Ohio GOP congressman Bob Ney's "American Liberty PAC" got $1000. And California's Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein got $8000 and $4747, respectively.
Where there's smoke The owner of the popular Gran Havana cigar and coffee lounge at Fifth and J in the Gaslamp Quarter has lost another round in his ongoing battle to keep his property from being condemned by Mayor Dick Murphy and his colleagues on the San Diego City Council. Ahmed Mesdaq, a 33-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, says a superior court judge turned a deaf ear to his arguments that the council's vote last spring to grab the property amounted to legalized theft. Ramin Samimi's 5th and J, LLC, which has a deal with the city to build a posh high-rise hotel on the property seized from Mesdaq, has contributed at least $15,000 to the local Republican Central Committee, which has spent at least $17,000 on Murphy's campaign to hold on to his mayoral seat and a lesser amount on Councilman Jim Madaffer's behalf. Both voted to condemn Mesdaq, who has vowed to appeal the adverse court ruling ... The local chapter of the American Lung Association says San Diego officials have been less than forthcoming in accounting for the millions of dollars in anti-tobacco funds they've received under legal settlements with big tobacco companies. "We will be working with Qualcomm Stadium and other big venues to go smoke-free, and we will continue to ask for full disclosure from the City of San Diego to account for how it has spent monies from the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco companies," says V.P. Debra Kelley. She adds that a public records act request to find out what happened to $250,000 of the money specifically earmarked for anti-smoking causes was stonewalled. A proposed ordinance to require the city's tobacco retailers to be licensed is also facing tough sledding, Kelley adds. "The City of San Diego has not provided sufficient information about how it is spending the funds it receives from the Master Tobacco Settlement. It is important that at least a small share of these funds go to enforcing the laws that will keep tobacco out of the hands of minors."
Scrambled waves Del Mar literary agent Sandra Dijkstra has come to the defense of fired KPBS radio personality Dirk Sutro. "The San Diego book scene is just realizing the enormous cost of KPBS's sudden firing of Dirk Sutro and canceling of the Lounge, a program which was so essential to the cultural state of our city," she says in an e-mail circulated to local media. "I know I am not alone in deploring this action: culture-lovers and booksellers around the city and the county are very unhappy too." Adds Dijkstra, who previously went after the San Diego State University owned-and-operated KPBS for canceling Bill Moyers during pledge weeks, "We can only wonder that a listener-subscribed radio station would do such a thing, and do it so precipitously. We sincerely hope you will reconsider this action, and bring Dirk Sutro back (at another time slot, if that is the issue)."