Juice through strength

— It's called the "Peace Through Strength PAC, Non-Federal Account," but the political fundraising committee run by House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter has seemingly been more concerned with the Republican congressman's local political clout than anything having to do with the national defense. According to available disclosure reports, the committee collected more than $32,000 through the third quarter of last year. Most of the money was contributed by big defense contractors, consultants, and others with business before Hunter and his all-powerful Armed Services committee. Big donors included Sorrento Mesa's Trex Enterprises Corp., a laser radar outfit ($8000); Evergreen International Aviation, an Oregon firm that provides air transport for the Pentagon ($5000); Oshkosh Truck Corp., maker of "severe duty" trucks for the Army ($5000); U.S. Ship Management of Charlotte, North Carolina ($2500); Moon Engineering Co., Portsmouth, Virginia ($2000); and Marine Hydraulics International, a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard ($1000). Hunter has doled out most of the cash to a variety of San Diego County Republican candidates and issue campaigns. Last year he gave $1000 to the successful assembly campaign of Chula Vista mayor Shirley Horton; $1000 to Michael Giorgino, who lost to state senator Denise Ducheny; $15,000 to "No on 52," the campaign against a statewide measure favored by Democrats to allow election-day voter registration; and $15,000 to Ron Rogers, who failed in his bid for mayor of Imperial Beach ... When is a wealthy and connected spouse newsworthy? Apparently not in the case of UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes, named last week as president of the University of California by a committee of UC regents headed by San Diego's own John Davies. Dynes is married to UCSD physics professor Frances Hellman, daughter of wealthy UC alum and San Francisco financier Warren Hellman. Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as "key adviser in the costly and ultimately unsuccessful merger of the Stanford and University of California at San Francisco medical centers in 1997," Hellman's investment firm, Hellman and Friedman, has managed hundreds of millions of dollars for the California Public Employees Retirement System and has made large investments with UC regent and Padres owner John Moores, who okayed the promotion of Dynes. Yet no newspaper in the state, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, mentioned the relationship. Responding to an e-mail regarding the omission, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Charles Burress replied, "I didn't know he was the father-in-law, though I'm not sure I would have mentioned it if I had known."

Strip city That financially pressed Las Vegas man linked to the investigation of the San Diego City Council's strip-club connection was sued last year for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conversion, and unjust enrichment. Tom Waddell, who says he's been called to testify before a federal grand jury in the Cheetahs case, told the council in April that he lived in San Diego and was concerned with strip-club regulation, spurring councilman Michael Zucchet to call for new hearings on the matter. Waddell filed for bankruptcy last year, with one of the creditors listed as Kenwood Communications Corporation. In a lawsuit filed last year, Kenwood charged that Waddell and his company, Direct Meeting Solutions, billed it $92,767 for an "incentive" trip to Barcelona, Spain. The charges included "purchase of 60 airline tickets" along with a 35 percent deposit for hotel rooms. After paying that and another $54,655 more, Kenwood says, the trip was postponed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and Waddell was allowed to retain the funds. But "less than two weeks before its long- awaited Barcelona trip last August," the company claims it discovered that Waddell hadn't booked the rooms or bought the airline tickets and the trip was canceled. In all, the suit says, Kenwood was out $144,420, plus unspecified monetary damages. Neither the company nor Waddell would comment ... Ex-Clark County, Nevada, commissioner Dario Herrera, another Cheetahs connection, has been targeted by federal auditors for a contract his public relations firm had with the Las Vegas Housing Authority. Auditors for the Department of Housing and Urban Development allege that "payments to Herrera Communications ceased in January 2002 without explanations, and there was no evidence they provided any services for the $50,000 in total payments they received."

Pure torture A group called Survivors of Torture International is having a reception next Thursday night at Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Arts. Representatives of the "over 11,000 torture survivors in San Diego County" will be chowing down on an assortment of "wine, hors d'oeuvres, and live Andean music." ... The late Charles Nathanson, whose UCSD-based San Diego Dialogue was a big critic of public education here, graduated from Detroit's tony private prep school, Birmingham Detroit Country Day, according to an obituary in his hometown Detroit Free Press.

-- Matt Potter

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