Super Bowl pig fest for media at Sea World

Mexican restaurant in Moscow is called San Diego

— A high-flying California investment banker and major underwriter of public bonds with ties to San Diego port commissioner David Malcolm and ex-commissioner Clifford Graves has been indicted on bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy charges for allegedly offering a Miami, Florida, official a $300,000 kickback. Calvin B. Grigsby, whose now-defunct San Francisco-based Grigsby, Brandford & Co., was once the country's biggest black-owned municipal bond underwriter, had been under investigation since 1996, when the FBI says it videotaped him in a San Francisco hotel room offering the cash to Miami-Dade County Commissioner James C. Burke, who was also indicted. During the 1980s, Grigsby enjoyed a close relationship with then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and frequently contributed to Brown's campaign war chest. In San Diego, the Grigsby firm hired then-San Diego port commissioner Clifford Graves, who had been forced out of his job as the county's chief administrative officer in 1985 after a bribery scandal. Later Grigsby hired ex-Chula Vista councilman Malcolm, another Brown ally, as its executive vice president. The firm landed lucrative underwriting contracts for Chula Vista redevelopment bonds and tax-exempt San Diego Gas & Electric industrial development bonds, also issued through the city of Chula Vista. Grigsby Brandford broke up a year ago after the influence-peddling allegations surfaced. Graves left San Diego to become redevelopment chief of San Francisco, and Malcolm now works for Artemis Capital, another minority-owned bond outfit.

Let them eat hops

Best-kept media secret of the Super Bowl: a lavishly catered party for 3500 journalists, related politicians, and other media hangers-on at Sea World on January 21. Closed to the public and reminiscent of Union-Tribune publisher Helen Copley's invitation-only media party during 1996's GOP convention, the bash is expected to include plenty of free booze and food supplied by Qualcomm. Sea World parent Anheuser-Busch, currently in secret talks with city hall to extend its lucrative bay-front lease another 50 years. Beach-area activists claim that the city council is about ready to bestow a sweetheart deal on the marine park, and hosting free fun events for reporters and politicos can't hurt its cause. A yet-to-be-identified corporate sponsor is hiring Graf Idaho, a 22-foot red-and-white blimp from Boise, to overfly the event taking digital pictures as souvenirs (gratis, of course) for the gathered media masses. "This is like being touched by the hand of God for an entrepreneur like me to get this job," blimp owner Leo Geis told the Idaho Statesman last week. "The executives from NBC [and other broadcast networks] will be watching me operate the blimp over Sea World. You can't buy media exposure like that."

El Michael

When the sports guys at Denver's Rocky Mountain News needed an expert opinion on whether El Niño would be affecting Super Bowl weather here, they didn't bother calling Scripps Institution or the U.S. Weather Service. Instead they went straight to the source: KGTV's "Captain" Mike Ambrose, who offered a positive spin. "January, February, and March are our wettest months," the paper quoted Ambrose as saying. "But at this point, there is no indication we're going to be affected by El Niño. So far, it's missed us and blasted Texas."

Food to spy for

Accused Qualcomm agent provocateur Richard Bliss probably won't be dining there any time soon, but Muscovites with a taste for Mexican cuisine now have a place of their own, and it's called San Diego. Not the real San Diego, but a new restaurant by that name. According to a review in the Moscow Times, the eatery is adorned with "a canopy of pumice bricks painted in adobe tones...where warm lighting dissipates across the walls" and features $6 margaritas that are "light yet potent, with freshly squeezed juices and quality tequila." The newspaper reports that "the chips and salsa ($3) are perhaps the best in Moscow," and the New Mexico-style sturgeon ($20) "might otherwise be a flop if it were not generously dusted and grilled in ground chili pepper." A unique feature, says the Times, is the rumbling of nearby subway trains, simulating San Diego's "seismic vibrations."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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