La Jolla's Hoosier honey

— As the scandal on Wall Street spreads, both Democrats and Republicans are trying to make political hay. But, in San Diego at least, it seems that some prominent Democrats have been the biggest players in the cozy boardroom power derby. First comes Sarah Bayh, wife of U.S. Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat from Indiana. Last week the Indianapolis Star broke the news that the senator was able to avoid laws banning gifts and gratuities to members of Congress by having his wife join seven corporate boards, including that of La Jolla's own Corvas International, a "biopharmaceutical" outfit developing drugs for stroke and angina. The company's website describes Mrs. Bayh, who became a director in June 2000, as "a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the College of Business Administration at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, since 1994" but makes no mention of her husband's job or that she is also on Butler's board of trustees. In addition to the Corvas gig, Mrs. Bayh, 42, is on the board of E Trade, an electronic stock brokerage; Anthem, an Indiana-based HMO; Emmis Communications; Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Curis, Inc.; and Golden State Foods, an Irvine-based provider of food to McDonald's. "She brings to their board a unique background and experience. Any company on whose board Mrs. Bayh serves may not lobby Senator Bayh," the senator's spokesman Mark Kornblau told the Star. "That is completely walled off." An exception to the lobbying ban is made for Indiana employers like Anthem, he added. Though corporations by law can't give money directly to members of Congress, they can hire their relatives. "Special interests are absolutely determined to find new and innovative ways to influence members of Congress," Common Cause lobbyist Matt Keller told the paper. Meanwhile, Bill Richardson, the former Clinton administration UN ambassador who is now running for governor of New Mexico, is still trying to live down his time on the board of Peregrine Systems of Del Mar Heights. Peregrine, controlled by Padres owner John Moores, is at the center of an accounting scandal and ensuing federal investigation that has seen the company's stock plunge as low as 30 cents a share. Richardson, who is the brother-in-law of ousted Peregrine chief executive officer Stephen Gardner, and who got $10,000 for attending four board meetings, denies any wrongdoing, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from sniping at him. "Either he's guilty of malfeasance or he's had his head in the public trough too long to know anything about corporate governance," said state Republican chairman John Dendahl. "Really, I had no involvement because I was what was called an outside director," Richardson told the Albuquerque Tribune last week.

Nukes on parade La Jolla's Dorothy Grier, widow of nuclear-bomb pioneer Herbert E. Grier, has kicked in $500,000 for the new Desert Research Institute near Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the $13.1 million institute will feature a 66,000-square-foot laboratory, office, archives, and museum "depicting the role of the Nevada Test Site in Southern Nevada, placing it in context with American daily life and its role in maintaining national security." Grier's husband, a 1934 MIT grad, founded one of the nuclear test site's original contractors ... Word is that ex-VP Al Gore made a hush-hush fundraising stop somewhere in San Diego County over the weekend ... New York-based Weight Watchers International has purchased its franchise operations in San Diego for $11 million. "We are extremely pleased to be acquiring Weight Watchers of San Diego from the Cutler family, one of the earliest Weight Watchers franchisees," president and CEO Linda Huett said in a release.

Moores and mortality The UCSD John and Rebecca Moores Cancer Center, so named after UC regent Moores promised to give the university $20 million, $3 million of which is still due, has come out on the low end of a national cancer-center survey by U.S. News & World Report. The magazine says UCSD, which placed 41, has a "mortality ratio" of .59. That's actually a bit better than the .81 reported at number-one rated M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which boasts a ratio of nurses to beds of 2.93. UCSD's is said to be 1.56 ... Its computer sales are in the tank, but Gateway sales and marketing vice president David Turner just got a consolation prize. He placed 46 on a list of the 50 "most powerful black executives in America" put out by Fortune magazine. How to save Gateway? The 46-year-old Turner's plan is to "revamp the 275 or so retail stores and market digital products -- cameras, MP3 music players, even TV sets."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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