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October 25-31, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Gamers

Cindy Chavez's poodle, county Democratic chairman Steve Preminger, held a press conference to blast mayoral opponent Chuck Reed for having the bad grace to call attention to money that Indian gaming interests plowed into the local Democratic Party. Preminger pointed out that Reed's campaign has also benefited from contributions linked to Indian gaming: $500 each from former mayoral candidate Michael Mulcahy and his stepdad, Henry Schiro, who were investors in a business venture called Game Too that once tried to open a casino in Gilroy. Mulcahy told Fly he is only distantly connected to the partnership (although Preminger claims he is a "big stakeholder") and Schiro is no longer involved. Ironically, the biggest stakeholders in Game Too are actually people who gave generously to Chavez's campaign—an inconvenient truth that Preminger either didn't figure out or chose not to reveal. According to documents filed with the California secretary of state, two principal partners in Game Too are Jack Salois, a former San Jose firefighter, and Sal Rubino Jr., CEO of the local Valley View Packing Company. Both Salois and Rubino, including Rubino's father and mother, contributed $500 each to Chavez's campaign. When we ran this by Preminger, he didn't want to talk about Chavez receiving money from gambling investors and tried to stay on message. Preminger seemed to suggest that it's hypocritical of Reed to cast himself as a paragon of virtue for doing the same things that Chavez and Preminger do. (The local Dems accepted $55,000 from the Indians but passed the money on to other party organizations to avoid embarrassment.) The hit on the Mulcahy clan was slavishly reported by the Mercury News, whose editorial coverage of late seems to be tilting toward Chavez. Their Sunday edition carried front-page profiles of both candidates, in which Chavez was described glowingly as a "political natural" while Reed was cast as "the council's moral scold." Extensive coverage was given early in the piece to Reed's recent unpleasantness over his use of around $6,000 a year from his office budget to join groups and attend events, a portion of which were of dubious municipal benefit. Ironically, the same Merc issue that whacked Mulcahy featured a photo of Chavez giving a backrub to supporter John Diquisto. Ironically, Diquisto was also an investor in the same failed gambling consortium as Mulcahy's folks. Now how's that for calling the kettle black?

Chavez Republic

OK, but wait, there's more. Why did Connecticut developer Republic Holdings Corporation drop $50,000 into the Democratic party's coffers on Sept. 5? Would it be a big stretch to conclude that the Greenwich-based concern didn't just wake up one day and say, "Hey, let's get rid of some of this unneeded cash and mail it to California to help those fine Democrats there?' But wait, there's even more! Those generous individuals at Republic also contributed $5,500 directly to Cindy Chavez's mayoral campaign. A half-dozen nicely synchronized checks showed up at the end of April. Not only did top execs open their checkbooks, but executive assistant Barbara Sojka kicked in $500, and driver David Ronka of Briarwood, N.Y., dropped a grand. Man, they must pay their drivers well! A clue to this mystery could lie in the fact that Republic Properties, in partnership with Barry Swenson's Green Valley Corporation, was selected by Valley Transportation Authority's board to develop high-density housing on a San Carlos Street parcel owned by the agency. Coincidentally, Chavez chaired the VTA board when Republic was chosen over other bidders. ... Chavez has long enjoyed a good relationship with Swenson and his colleagues. According to documents on file with the city, Chavez employed Swenson lobbyist Erik Schoennauer as a consultant in 2001 and paid him $6,000. City Council minutes show that on Nov. 6, 2001, while under contract to Chavez, Schoennauer appeared before the council to promote another Swenson project without any disclosure in the written minutes of his dual role. Documents related to all these matters can be viewed at sv411.com.

Donors, Not Donuts

Traditionally, the San Jose Police Department has stayed away from the fundraising game that other law enforcement agencies have deployed to supplement their budgets. The California Highway Patrol's 11-99 Foundation has raised millions for scholarships to officers' kids and death benefits to the families of those who fell in the line of duty. And the Sheriff's Advisory Board recently donated an entire prefab training facility to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department. So SJPD Chief Rob Davis decided not to settle for a lump of coal in his stocking while Santa Claus spread goodies around this year. Davis dispatched Lt. Scott Cornfield to organize a group of community volunteers that to date includes banker Bill del Biaggio, Cisco's Jim Cuneen and United Way's Mark Walker to launch the San Jose Police Foundation (www.sanjosepolicefoundation.org). The group's stated objective is simply to "improve public safety," Cornfield says. Contemplated projects include refurbishing a PAL stadium for youth athletic programs, underwriting production costs of officer training videos and supplying trauma kits for patrol cars. The new foundation will participate in the Saturday, Oct. 28, vigil at Jeffrey Fontana Park in memory of the slain officer for whom the park is named. The event begins at 6:30pm at 1103 Calle Almaden in San Jose.

Domain Event

Why was Mountain View City Councilmember Michael Kasperzak so eager to have his colleagues vote on a resolution opposing Proposition 90? If passed, the law would curb the government's ability to force the sale of private property through eminent domain. Gadfly Don Letcher became suspicious when Kasperzak pushed the issue at City Hall last month, but it failed because other councilmembers declined to take a position on it. Councilmember Tom Means said city leaders should be spending their time on more important things. That made Letcher wonder why Kasperzak was spending so much time on Prop. 90. Since the councilmember's efforts to get a city resolution failed, he has been actively supporting the California League of Cities in its countercampaign of the measure. It turns out that Kasperzak runs a company called Silicon Valley Mediation Group from his home in Mountain View, and some of his clients have been parties trying to settle eminent-domain disputes. Letcher called it a conflict of interest, saying Kasperzak stands to gain business the more often eminent domain is used. But the councilmember disagreed. He said he's only dealt with a half-dozen eminent domain-related cases and has no direct financial stake in Prop. 90. Then he added that his mediation business could actually benefit from Prop. 90 passing, because "there will be so much more litigation."


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