UCSD's Robert Dynes, Frances Hellman, and the San Diego Padres

University chancellor caught in San Diego's money-power web

Robert Dynes. "I think he has about as high a personal energy level as anybody I've ever met," said John Moores.
  • Robert Dynes. "I think he has about as high a personal energy level as anybody I've ever met," said John Moores.

When Robert Carr Dynes was named chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, in April 1996, he was said to be a man of humble origins. Born in Canada in 1942, the physicist who had graduated from the University of Western Ontario and gotten his doctorate from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, described to reporters a life of hard knocks, growing up poor in small-town Canada. "I got my block knocked off like everybody else who was raised on the streets," he told the Union-Tribune. Until he decided to begin graduate study in physics, he said, he'd nearly become a high school teacher.

UCSD's enrollment is now more than 18,000, including graduate schools of medicine and engineering and institutes.

UCSD's enrollment is now more than 18,000, including graduate schools of medicine and engineering and institutes.

How times had changed. By that spring of 1996, Dynes was assuming command of one of America's most prestigious research universities, with an enrollment of more than 18,000, including graduate schools of medicine and engineering and institutes and think tanks specializing in everything from supercomputing to advanced semiconductors to plant genetics to Latin American politics.

Frances Hellman. Three months after the divorce filing, Dynes and Hellman first appeared together in an October 29, 1996, Union-Tribune story about a reception in honor of Dynes's inauguration that day as UCSD Chancellor.

Frances Hellman. Three months after the divorce filing, Dynes and Hellman first appeared together in an October 29, 1996, Union-Tribune story about a reception in honor of Dynes's inauguration that day as UCSD Chancellor.

Beyond its place in academia, UCSD and its subsidiaries play a key role in the politics and civic life of San Diego, furnishing experts who pontificate on the state of society and involve themselves in such decisions as whether to build a taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium or whether the county should adopt a new form of regional government or build a new airport. UCSD runs two large hospitals, the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest -- where most of the county's indigent patients are taken and which the university has threatened to shut down -- and Thornton Hospital in University City, built in 1993 at a cost to taxpayers of $87 million. With a total budget of well over $1.4 billion and the third-largest payroll in San Diego County, with 18,829 employees, UCSD is a force to be reckoned with.

Dyne's new father-in-law was F. Warren Hellman of San Francisco -- an heir to the Levi Strauss blue jeans fortune.

Dyne's new father-in-law was F. Warren Hellman of San Francisco -- an heir to the Levi Strauss blue jeans fortune.

Yet, when he took over as head of UCSD, Dynes, a former director of chemical physics research at AT&T's Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, seemed to have little experience running anything larger than a physics program. After three years as a UCSD professor, Dynes became head of UCSD's physics department in 1994. In August 1995, less than a year before being elevated to chancellor, he was appointed senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, second in command to then-chancellor Richard C. Atkinson.

Marco Hellman made political contributions to two members of the board that runs the California Public Retirement System, known as Calpers.

Marco Hellman made political contributions to two members of the board that runs the California Public Retirement System, known as Calpers.

Certain other facts were left off the résumé the university presented to the public. According to a later divorce filing, in 1991 Dynes had allegedly deserted his first wife Christel, to whom he had been married for almost 30 years, to move to La Jolla. And later, in the spring of 1998, when Dynes married his second wife Frances Hellman, 43, there was no mention of her wealthy and politically influential San Francisco family, which maintains close ties to the University of California's administrative establishment.

Both Robert Dynes and Frances Hellman, according to news accounts, are baseball fans who count among their close friends Padres owner John J. Moores.

Both Robert Dynes and Frances Hellman, according to news accounts, are baseball fans who count among their close friends Padres owner John J. Moores.

Hellman graduated from Dartmouth College in 1978 and received a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University in 1985. She worked at Bell Labs from 1985 until 1987, when she moved to San Diego to take a position as an assistant professor of physics at UCSD. Dynes's biography in Who's Who says he was at Bell Labs from 1968 until late 1990, when he moved to La Jolla to become a physics professor.

Bill Clinton and Dynes at UCSD

Bill Clinton and Dynes at UCSD

Dynes filed for divorce from his first wife Christel on July 24, 1996, according to New Jersey court records. Documents filed in the case indicate she had remained behind in Summit, New Jersey, when he left home for California six years before. Three months after the divorce filing, Dynes and Hellman first appeared together in an October 29, 1996, Union-Tribune story about a reception in honor of Dynes's inauguration that day as UCSD Chancellor. According to the story, Hellman was seated at Dynes's table, along with his father. Subsequent mentions in the Union-Tribune's Burl Stiff society column had them paired at parties and receptions throughout 1997.

On January 2, 1997, a lawyer for Christel Dynes filed a counterclaim against Robert Dynes, alleging that he had "deserted [Christel Dynes] on or about January 1, 1991, ever since which time and for more than 12 months last past, [Robert Dynes] has willfully and continuously deserted [Christel Dynes]." (Dynes refused comment and terminated an interview last week when asked to respond to the desertion allegations made in the court filing.)

The battle raged for another year, during which Dynes fired his New Jersey attorney and hired another from a well-connected Manhattan law firm. In their final judgement of divorce, filed January 12, 1998, Christel Dynes was awarded alimony of $6000 a month, adding up to a bit less than a third of Dynes's current $262,000 annual salary from UCSD. "The obligation of the Husband to make payments of alimony shall not be decreased by virtue of receipt of earned income by the Wife, provided that her earned income does not exceed $50,000 per annum."

Dynes agreed to turn over to Christel their house in Summit, New Jersey, along with all furnishings and personal property, free and clear. Each agreed to keep title to their own cars, she a 1997 Ford Explorer and a 1984 Honda Prelude, and he a 1997 Mercedes-Benz and a 1987 Mazda. In addition, according to the terms of the settlement, "The Husband is entitled to pension benefits from his former employers, AT&T/Bell Laboratories. Said pension is currently in pay status with Husband receiving monthly payments. The parties have agreed that the pension shall be divided equally between the parties by way of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order."

The parties also agreed that "Husband shall maintain certain present existing life insurance policies on his life, as provided by AT&T and the University of California, which have a combined current face value of $500,000, hereinafter known as the 'policies.' The Husband shall, for so long as the Husband has an obligation to pay alimony to the Wife, maintain the 'policies' with the Wife as beneficiary."

Dynes agreed to give his ex-wife a 50-50 split of "the net proceeds of any royalties, payments, prizes, monies or other emoluments that he may receive now or in the future from said patents, including any monies, prizes, payments, other emoluments or royalties as a result of research conducted during the marriage."

The chancellor had paid a considerable price but was finally free to remarry. The wedding of Robert Dynes and Frances Hellman was held in the San Francisco area in May 1998. It was first announced in Neil Morgan's Union-Tribune column three months earlier. "Dynes and physicist Frances Hellman will wed in May. The daughter of a San Francisco financier, she's become a hard-line Padres fan," wrote Morgan. The reference to Hellman's father provided San Diegans with their first public inkling that the marriage might be something more than a typical union.

In San Francisco, the society headlines were larger. "Chris and Warren Hellman's daughter, Frances, a physics professor at UC San Diego, and the university's chancellor, Robert Dynes, were married May 2," the Chronicle reported. "The Hellmans hosted the Ballet's dinner-dance (Walt Tolleson Orchestra) celebrating its 65th season recently at the St. Francis, and the auxiliary's dinner before last week's Ballet School performances at the Palace of the Legion of Honor raised $100,000."

Though most San Diegans were still in the dark, San Franciscans knew that the UCSD chancellor had married well indeed. Dyne's new father-in-law was F. Warren Hellman of San Francisco -- an heir to the Levi Strauss blue jeans fortune. Hellman serves on that company's board and is one of America's wealthiest and most successful investment bankers and venture capitalists. The former chairman of Shearson Lehman Hutton in New York, Hellman returned to his hometown of San Francisco in 1984 to set up, with friend Tully Friedman, the firm of Hellman & Friedman LLC, a private investment company. The firm has made billions of dollars for its partners. (Though Friedman left the firm in January 1997, it still bears his name.)

Hellman, 65, is the great-grandson of one of the founders of the Wells Fargo and Security Pacific banks and is also distantly related to a Lehman Brothers founder, according to a 1990 account in Forbes magazine. At age 28, the magazine says, Hellman become the youngest partner in Lehman Brothers history.

Besides his business career, Hellman and his wife are well known as big contributors to political and philanthropic causes. During Democrat Willie Brown's hotly contested bid to be reelected mayor of San Francisco last fall, Hellman was said to be a prime donor to San Franciscans for Sensible Government, a pro-Brown political action committee that raised an undisclosed amount on behalf of the mayor. In all, independent expenditures for Brown amounted to more than $1 million, according to an account in the San Francisco Examiner. The expenditures, or so-called "soft money," exploited a disclosure loophole in the city's campaign-contribution limits, bringing criticism from campaign-finance reformers who argued that big labor and business had corrupted the city's political process by hiding their big-money donations.

"We used to talk about candidates buying elections," San Francisco supervisor Leland Yee told the Examiner. "Now we have independent expenditure committees buying the elections for them -- and the candidates get off scot-free."

A big beneficiary of the Hellmans' philanthropy has been the University of California. In December of last year, the couple gave the San Francisco branch of the university $5 million to endow faculty research projects, according to the Journal of Philanthropy, and over the years have contributed much more. In 1995, Hellman and his wife reportedly gave a similar amount to UC Berkeley, his alma mater. According to UCSD's public affairs office, the Hellmans have also given the UCSD Foundation at least $500,000.

Critics say Hellman has used his philanthropy and political giving to build a personal power base within the UC administration and its Board of Regents. He can pull strings, they claim, that others can't.

Hellman encountered controversy last year after a 1997 merger between the University of California San Francisco and Stanford University hospitals that he'd engineered went sour. Hellman, who'd written a 1996 report on financial problems at the UCSF hospital, was appointed to the board of the combined institution, called UCSF Stanford Health Care. But the cost savings that Hellman had touted failed to occur, and expenses of the merger soared.

The price of integrating the computer systems of the two hospitals jumped from an estimated $25 million to $126 million, and low-paying jobs were eliminated, while upper-level managers with fat salaries were added to the burgeoning payroll. Top officers of the hospital were seen taking limousines to work, and care for indigent patients was cut to the bone. The heat on university officials became so great that the deal is now being unwound, but not before Hellman reportedly tried to block a state audit of the troubled venture.

Hellman also drew scrutiny in October 1997, when it was revealed that in 1996 he and his son Marco had made political contributions to two members of the board that runs the California Public Retirement System, known as Calpers. According to Venture Capital Journal, Hellman gave $5000 to California controller Kathleen Connell, who was preparing for a gubernatorial bid, and $1500 to then-state treasurer Matt Fong, who was running for U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer. Marco Hellman gave Fong $1500. Both Connell and Fong were voting members of Calpers. According to Venture Capital Journal, Calpers was Hellman's single biggest limited partner, holding some 10 percent of Hellman & Friedman's funds.

In addition to the Hellmans, the magazine reported, then-partner Tully M. Friedman gave $4500 to Fong in 1995 and 1996, and Matthew Reed Barger, an invoice manager at the firm, donated $1900 to Fong in 1996.

Hellman told the magazine that the donations were made by the individual donors personally, not by Hellman & Friedman. "Basically, we have an absolute rule here that the firm does not make political contributions. I contributed almost $60,000 in 1996 to various candidates. They're just all over the place. Essentially, our rule is, one, we do not make political contributions as a firm, nor do we reimburse anybody for making political contributions."

Through Hellman & Friedman and various partnerships it has created, Hellman has invested in such companies as New York advertising agency Young & Rubicam, making huge profits. In the case of Y&R, Hellman's original investment returned over $1 billion to a partnership known as Hellman & Friedman Capital Partners III, a $1.5 billion "private equity fund" formed in 1995. The company has also had success with a leveraged buyout of Levi Strauss as well as with its investments in high-tech and media companies.

According to a Hellman & Friedman news release, the firm "has raised and managed more than $4.2 billion of committed capital which it has invested in 38 companies. Limited partners in Hellman & Friedman funds include many of the nation's leading government, corporate, and nonprofit institutions."

Clearly Hellman, his wife, and their family, including daughter Frances, are wealthy and influential people. By virtue of his position as UCSD Chancellor, Dynes also has acquired considerable power and influence. In order to avoid possible conflicts of interest, University of California officials, including the chancellors at each of the system's nine campuses, are required each year to disclose their financial holdings, along with those of their spouses. But when Dynes filed his most recent annual disclosure statement on March 29, 1999, he failed to list any of his wife's substantial assets, as required by law.

In response to repeated questioning by a reporter in November of last year about Dynes's apparent failure to completely disclose his family finances, Winifred Cox, the university's chief spokeswoman, said that Dynes planned to amend his statement at a future date she would not specify. Two months later, after further questions about the matter were posed to the University of California's conflict-of-interest office in Oakland, Dynes finally filed an amended disclosure. The new filing included what the disclosure says is his wife's interest in two Hellman & Friedman "investment partnerships," valued at greater than $100,000, the maximum disclosure category under the law. One is called "Hellman & Friedman Management III," the other, "Locust Street Group III, L.P."

Dynes's amended disclosure, dated January 13, 2000, also lists a host of other investments he says belong to his wife, all valued by him at over $100,000. They include holdings in BankAmerica Corp.; Echostar Communications; Convergys Corp.; Forest Laboratories, Inc.; GATX Corp.; IT Group, Inc.; Calpine Corp.; Associates First Capital Corp.; A.C. Nielsen Corp.; Avon Products, Inc.; Coltech Industries, Inc.; and Mexican construction giant Cemex, S.A.

In an interview last week, Dynes told a reporter he had amended the statement "after your questions and after asking several people in the Office of the [University of California] President, I amended it to include my wife's holdings. I didn't at the time know -- I had just recently gotten married -- and so originally it just had my own on there, and after questions it was made clear to me that I had to include my wife's, which I didn't realize." His delay in filing the amended return, Dynes said, was because "it just took time. I asked some people to work through it all, to work out the forms, and it just took the time to do that. No other reason than just bureaucracy."

Under state law, Dynes is prohibited from using his office to influence any university actions or decisions that might affect the fate of his or his wife's holdings. Dynes's failure to disclose and his delayed reporting becomes especially interesting in light of a special relationship he, his wife, and the Hellman family have developed during their time on the UCSD campus. Both Robert Dynes and Frances Hellman, according to news accounts, are baseball fans who count among their close friends Padres owner John J. Moores. And their financial relationship runs even deeper.

Dynes has voiced support for a new baseball stadium and in 1997 served on the 17-member "Mayor's Task Force on Padres Planning." San Diego Mayor Susan Golding commissioned the group in December 1996 to "develop and help implement a strategic plan that enables the San Diego Padres Baseball Club to operate on a sound business basis and as a contributing corporate citizen of San Diego for the foreseeable future."

On August 25, 1997, as the task force deliberated, Dynes was quoted by the Union-Tribune as saying, "I worry that Major League Baseball cannot be economically viable in San Diego. That's a serious problem for the community. I really don't want to see the Padres leave. There's lots of pros and cons to a new stadium. I don't have an opinion about it. That's a job for the next committee."

But in its final report, filed September 19, 1997, which bore Dynes's name along with those of his 16 fellow members, the task-force concluded that "the Padres cannot generate the revenue necessary to become economically viable and remain competitive in Qualcomm Stadium." The report went on to say that "in a new, baseball-oriented ballpark...the Padres can potentially become a stable, competitive, healthy franchise in San Diego for years to come." The task-force report, and Dynes's endorsement, was subsequently used by Padres owner Moores to justify moving forward with the proposed downtown stadium.

In an interview last week, Dynes said he had agreed with the report and signed off on its conclusions.

The bond between Dynes and Moores has since become so close that the men trade public compliments with each other. "I think he has about as high a personal energy level as anybody I've ever met," Moores was quoted by the Union-Tribune as saying of Dynes in November 1998. "I would not expect a physicist to have the interpersonal skills and the energy level that this guy does."

And in March of last year when Democratic governor Gray Davis appointed Moores to the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Union-Tribune quoted Dynes as saying, "I'm really looking forward to working with him. John has such a commitment to young people and to education. Since he's moved to San Diego it's clear he believes in the advantage of education.... I'm so pleased, I can't stand it."

During an interview last week, Dynes said about Moores: "We're colleagues. I mean, we know each other, not all that well. I've known him for three years, maybe." Dynes described the circumstances of their meeting by saying, "I think at one point I thought it would be of value for the university to know someone who is an influential person in the community, like many other people we know very well in the community."

But beyond their mutual admiration and their joint interest in baseball, Dynes and Moores have at least two other connections, both involving their personal financial interests, and, in Dynes's case, those of his spouse, Frances, along with her father, Warren, as well as her brother, Marco, known as Mick. Each relationship raises questions about how closely Dynes has adhered to UC's ethical guidelines and the state's conflict-of-interest laws.

Though known primarily in San Diego as the owner of the Padres, John Moores made his fortune as a high-powered financier who got his start in the software business. In October of 1998, before 1999's record run-up in the high-tech NASDAQ stock-market index, Forbes Magazine ranked Moores at number 36 on a list of American high technology's wealthiest entrepreneurs, with an estimated net worth of $323.8 million. He is currently chairman of the board and owns a controlling stake in Peregrine Systems of Del Mar Heights, a public company that specializes in business-management software.

Like Warren Hellman, Moores is a professional in the arena of hardball politics. Over the years he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the candidates he has favored, most of them powerful Democrats. He was one of the largest individual donors to Katherine Brown's failed bid to defeat Pete Wilson for governor in 1994. While living in his home state of Texas, he poured money into the campaign of then-incumbent governor Anne Richards. Last year he gave newly elected governor Gray Davis $100,000 after Davis appointed Moores to the University of California Board of Regents.

During Davis's 1998 campaign for governor, Moores reportedly contributed $166,000 in cash and use of his private jet.

In his electoral battle for a new taxpayer-subsidized downtown baseball park, adopted by San Diego voters in November 1998, Moores spent more than $2 million of his personal fortune. He has since spent thousands of dollars more, showering lavish gifts, meals, and campaign contributions on city councilmembers and other San Diego elected officials (such as City Attorney Casey Gwinn) who have backed the project's growing cost overruns.

Moores also runs the JMI Equity Fund, L.P. According to JMI's website, the venture capital investment firm has bought control of well over 30 companies, principally computer-software start-ups having something to do with the Internet and various kinds of data processing. Many of the companies Moores has invested in bear colorful names, many based on his take-no-prisoners reputation for doing business. One of his firms, Hardball Software, recently changed its name to infoShark.

"JMI is a leading private equity investment partnership focused on investments in technology-oriented growth companies," says a Moores company news release from last year. "In 1999, JMI closed its fourth fund, JMI Equity Fund IV, which brings its total of committed capital to approximately $400 million."

The financial interests of Moores and the Hellman family coincided in October of last year when Hellman & Friedman announced it had acquired a new partner: Moores's JMI Equity Fund. On October 20, 1999, Hellman & Friedman and the Moores partnership said they had paid an undisclosed amount to take over a company called Blackbaud, Inc., an accounting and business-management software-maker based in Charleston, South Carolina. The firm says it grosses $85 million a year, primarily by selling software packages aimed at nonprofit and educational institutions such as universities. As part of Hellman's deal with Moores, Hellman's son, Mick -- a managing director of Hellman & Friedman and Robert Dynes's brother-in-law -- became Blackbaud's new board chairman. Paul Barber of JMI also joined the board.

In an interview last week, Dynes said he had never heard of Blackbaud, Inc., and was unaware that his father-in-law had been involved in any investment deals with John Moores. As to whether he had ever asked his father-in-law if there had been any business dealings between him and Moores, Dynes replied, "I don't think I have." Asked whether it would have been appropriate to make such inquiries, Dynes said, "Well, I don't think so."

In addition to the Blackbaud deal, Dynes and Moores have another personal business connection. Within the last nine months, both have become members of the board of Leap Wireless International, Inc., a San Diego company with financial ties to cell-phone giant Qualcomm, Inc., whose history is closely linked to UCSD. Created in September 1998 as a subsidiary spun off from Qualcomm, Leap Wireless went public in July 1999 and has set up a number of partnerships in Chile and Mexico and in the United States to build telephone networks using Qualcomm's CDMA cellular-transmission technology. The company owns 25 percent of a Mexican cell-phone venture known as Pegaso, which has started a phone system to serve Mexico's four largest cities, including Tijuana. Other Pegaso investors include Alejandro Burillo Azcarraga, a wealthy Mexican tycoon; Citicorp; a venture-capital group called the Latin America Infrastructure Fund; and the Japanese trading company Nissho Iwai.

The election of Dynes and Moores to the Leap Wireless board was announced by the company in a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) dated July 21, 1999. Their fellow board members included one of the company's Mexican partners, Burillo Azcarraga. According to the Leap filing, Moores had been elected to the board in June, and Dynes followed a month later in July of 1999. All subsequent SEC filings by Leap have listed Dynes as a board member. In a December interview, a company spokeswoman confirmed that Dynes had served on the board and had been attending its meetings since July. According to an SEC filing dated January 28 of this year, Dynes and the other board members have been compensated for their service with stock options "exercisable within 60 days of December 15, 1999." The filing says that both Dynes and Moores have thus far received options good for 2000 shares. Asked in an interview last week whether he was planning to exercise the options, Dynes said he had "no idea.... That is the compensation, but I have no idea whether I'm going to exercise the options or not."

The University of California's "Policy on Outside Professional Activities for University Officers and Designated Staff," adopted July 1, 1995, calls for the university's chancellors to obtain permission before joining corporate boards. "Service for which compensation is received, including membership on a corporate board, shall be approved in advance and in writing by the immediate supervisor of the Officer of the University."

When asked early last November whether Dynes had obtained such permission before joining the Leap Wireless board in July, UCSD spokeswoman Winifred Cox responded that it was Dynes's position that he would not become a member of the board until the company stockholders' meeting, scheduled for December 10, 1999. After further questions were raised, Cox provided a copy of a letter from Dynes to University of California president Richard Atkinson, dated November 29, 1999 -- two weeks after a reporter first asked about the matter and more than three months after Leap first reported that Dynes had become a board member.

"I am writing to request your permission to join the Board of Directors of Leap Wireless International on December 10, 1999," said the Dynes letter. "The annual time commitment away from campus would include my attendance at four half-day board meetings as well as an occasional one-hour conference call. I will use accrued personal vacation time for all absences connected with my board membership."

Atkinson, who was Dynes's immediate predecessor as UCSD chancellor before being chosen by the Regents in 1996 to head the university, did not reply. He himself has reported holding large financial interests in both Leap Wireless and Qualcomm, and he serves on the Qualcomm board.

Based on Monday's closing price of $133 per share and a Qualcomm SEC disclosure statement dated January 25, 2000, Atkinson controls $238.9 million of Qualcomm stock. According to the SEC statement, the stock reportedly owned by Atkinson includes "84,000 shares held in a foundation of which Dr. Atkinson disclaims beneficial ownership. Also includes 783,616 shares held in family trusts, 408,000 shares held in a pension plan trust for the benefit of employees of a business operated by Dr. Atkinson and 32,640 shares held in trust for the benefit of relatives." According to his statement of economic interest filed with the University of California on March 24, 1999, as of the end of 1998, Atkinson also owned between $10,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in Leap Wireless, International, which he acquired on September 28, 1998.

Instead of Atkinson, C. Judson King, the university's provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, responded to Dynes in a letter dated December 9, 1999 -- the day before the Leap Wireless stockholders meeting was held. In his letter, King granted Dynes's request to join Leap's board, saying, "I am pleased to approve your service.... I will appreciate your reporting the number of days served and the compensation received for board service at the end of the current reporting period, July 1, 1999-June 30, 2000."

In an interview with a reporter last week, Dynes said he had indeed joined the Leap Wireless board in the summer of 1999 and was aware of the university policy on obtaining permission prior to joining corporate boards. "I knew of that. I actually talked to the president before joining the board, and asked him verbally." Dynes says he remembers that Atkinson gave approval. "I think it was yes." He said that he decided to obtain written permission from the president in November 1999 "because we didn't have a paper trail of it, and there were questions that I think you asked and realized that a verbal trail -- that a paper trail was better than a verbal trail. But the verbal trail was there."

The university's outside-employment policy was formulated in part to avoid conflicts of interest by chancellors and other high-ranking officials that would "interfere with the performance of University duties" and violate the California Political Reform Act of 1974. Concerns about financial conflicts have grown more significant in recent years, as the University of California has become increasingly involved with commercial interests eager to exploit the university's inventions, research, and international academic and political connections for financial gain.

By requiring the disclosure of outside compensation and establishing a formal procedure for obtaining advance permission before university officials join corporate boards, the university says it seeks -- at least in theory -- to screen out possible conflicts of interest before they occur.

And there are many possible conflicts. For instance, UCSD's Institute for the Americas, established 15 years ago, is more than just an academic think tank. According to an account in the Union-Tribune last September, the center, headed by former U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia and Jordan Paul Boeker, lends the university's prestige to the networking and marketing of major U.S. corporations in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America: "Boeker said San Diego companies that have benefited from the institute's work include Sempra, SAIC, Qualcomm, and its spin-off Leap Wireless." The UCSD engineering school also has entered into agreements with Qualcomm regarding cell-phone research conducted on the campus.

Dynes's Leap Wireless board position could, at the very least, raise ethical questions about Dynes's simultaneous roles as a Leap director and UCSD Chancellor. UCSD publications, especially those of the San Diego Dialogue, another UCSD-related think tank that often acts as an advocate for big Mexican business, have promoted Pegaso and related Tijuana ventures. The Dialogue is partially supported by contributions from wealthy Mexican industrialists and frequently has kind words to say about the so-called maquiladoras -- factories that employ thousands of Tijuanans at low wages under what critics charge are poor working conditions.

Asked in an interview last week whether there might be at least the appearance of conflict of interest raised by these connections to the university and Dynes's presence on the Leap Wireless board, Dynes said, "I don't see that as a conflict. I think part of the university's responsibility is to be of service to the community and to nourish the economic health of the community, and part of the nourishment of the economic health of the community is to work with industry, work with schools, work with everybody. It's part of our responsibility, it's part of our public responsibility."

UCSD's cheerleader-in-chief is Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of the university's Extended Studies and Public Programs, which oversees Dialogue and other business-related university programs. "San Diego, at the crossroads of the globalizing economy and as a gateway to Asia and Latin America, is benefiting enormously from the global manufacturing along our border," Walshok wrote last year in a Union-Tribune opinion piece typical of the university's pro-industry position.

Conflicts of interest can also lead to acts of omission. In the case of Padres owner Moores, his cozy relationship with Dynes and his wife seems to portend even less attention by UCSD's academics to the festering social problems of Barrio Logan and other disadvantaged neighborhoods in the vicinity of the new downtown baseball stadium.

Critics have often wondered why the university has failed to lend its considerable resources and influence to investigating issues of how to pay for housing for the homeless and dealing with displacement of the poor by the city's massive redevelopment projects. The university has cast a blind eye toward the city's chronic failure to come up with a way to renovate its decrepit central library, a project now being held hostage to John Moores's stadium proposal.

But UCSD always seems to have time for baseball. In September 1998, when John Moores was looking for voters to support his baseball park, he found them at UCSD. "In the upper-deck seats at Qualcomm Stadium, filled Sunday with hundreds of young UCSD students bused to the game by the Padres," according to an account in the Union-Tribune, "a thoroughly unscientific poll found that four of five young male fans planned to vote for Proposition C."

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