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Steak and politics

Hard times will soon shutter Rainwater’s on Kettner Boulevard, the fabled red-meat eatery. Over the years, politicos of all stripes dined gratis at the bistro, thanks to well-heeled special interests. February 2004 was typical. GOP assemblyman Mark Wyland received a $67 dinner, thanks to the Barona Indian tribe. In March, the tribe hosted meals worth $51 each for then–Democratic assemblyman Juan Vargas and Speaker Fabian Núñez, a local native. Arguably the establishment’s most infamous repast occurred on December 1, 1998, when then–port commissioner David Malcolm sat down to dinner with ex–Democratic state senator Steve Peace and two executives of Duke Energy. Malcolm, who charged the $432 tab to the port, pled guilty in April 2003 to a felony conflict-of-interest charge arising from a private deal he cut with Duke. Laurel Rainwater, the establishment’s operator, was not above chipping in to support the political careers of his favorite customers. In 1999, Rainwater gave $1000 to the congressional campaign of ex-Republican county supervisor Brian Bilbray. In 2002, he gave $250 to the unsuccessful Democratic assembly bid of then–city councilman George Stevens, and he contributed $300 to Jim Roache’s GOP assembly campaign. A year ago in September, Rainwater picked up a $134.15 tab for the city council campaign of Marti Emerald, reported as a “non-monetary” contribution.

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Hard times will soon shutter Rainwater’s on Kettner Boulevard, the fabled red-meat eatery. Over the years, politicos of all stripes dined gratis at the bistro, thanks to well-heeled special interests. February 2004 was typical. GOP assemblyman Mark Wyland received a $67 dinner, thanks to the Barona Indian tribe. In March, the tribe hosted meals worth $51 each for then–Democratic assemblyman Juan Vargas and Speaker Fabian Núñez, a local native. Arguably the establishment’s most infamous repast occurred on December 1, 1998, when then–port commissioner David Malcolm sat down to dinner with ex–Democratic state senator Steve Peace and two executives of Duke Energy. Malcolm, who charged the $432 tab to the port, pled guilty in April 2003 to a felony conflict-of-interest charge arising from a private deal he cut with Duke. Laurel Rainwater, the establishment’s operator, was not above chipping in to support the political careers of his favorite customers. In 1999, Rainwater gave $1000 to the congressional campaign of ex-Republican county supervisor Brian Bilbray. In 2002, he gave $250 to the unsuccessful Democratic assembly bid of then–city councilman George Stevens, and he contributed $300 to Jim Roache’s GOP assembly campaign. A year ago in September, Rainwater picked up a $134.15 tab for the city council campaign of Marti Emerald, reported as a “non-monetary” contribution.

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