It's the bribes, stupid

The Las Vegas city council last week finalized its million-dollar deal with Cheetahs Las Vegas strip-club owner Jack Galardi, who took over after his son Michael, the previous co-owner, copped a plea to federal bribery charges in San Diego. "I think what we did was right on January 7 and it's right today," said Mayor Oscar Goodman in describing the council's original decision to fine Jack Galardi $1.017 million rather than pull the club's liquor license, a move that would most likely have forced the establishment to close. The mayor argued that Galardi should keep the license because the large number of strippers, bartenders, bouncers, janitors, and affiliated workers employed by Cheetahs might otherwise lose their jobs. According to federal court records, Goodman once was Galardi's lawyer in an appeal of his 1972 conviction for conspiracy to steal federal money orders from an L.A.-area courthouse and cash them in Vietnam. After the council's original January vote, Jack Galardi launched a court appeal based on the fact that Michael's guilty plea was to crimes committed in San Diego, not Vegas. When the city council prepared a second complaint based on Michael's plea agreement to similar charges in Las Vegas, the senior Galardi relented and agreed to last week's deal through his Vegas lawyer, Dominic Gentile. The fate of the San Diego Cheetahs licenses is still up in the air, pending an appeal by Michael Galardi.

Memory lapse The Union-Tribune ran a lengthy page-one story last Saturday about state assemblywoman Christine Kehoe's bill that would force taxpayers of a city that has stolen a professional sports team to pay reparations to the team's prior home town. Newspaper insiders say it had the distinct odor of a campaign piece by the paper on behalf of its longtime friend Kehoe, who is currently running for state senate. Old Sacramento hands discount any chance that the vaguely drawn bill could ever make its way to the governor's desk. And the U-T failed to mention that then-councilwoman Kehoe voted with Mayor Susan Golding's council majority in 1995 to approve the city's now-infamous, loophole-laden Chargers contract that started all the trouble in the first place ... San Diego school superintendent Alan Bersin has sent out a memo announcing that "I will once again defer consideration of any bonus for 2003-2004." He said he will also "defer" his cost-of-living increase. "In addition, again as last year, I will take an unpaid leave of four work weeks from the district as a matter of substantive as well as symbolic sacrifice." Bersin is married to superior court judge Lisa Foster, daughter of late financier and South Bay real estate mogul Stanley Foster ... Mayoral challenger Peter Q. Davis has picked up maximum $250 contributions from lawyer Roy Bell, husband of U-T columnist Diane Bell; ex-city manager and Sol Price honcho Jack McGrory; downtown real estate man Craig Irving; and Laurie Black, daughter-in-law of the late Coronado hotel magnate and Clinton insider M. Larry Lawrence. He paid Mary Anne Pintar, onetime aide to ex-mayor Susan Golding, about $1000 for consulting services. His rival challenger to Mayor Murphy, county supervisor Ron Roberts, has received the maximum from Dominic Alessio (former Mr. A's owner and horse-racing aficionado who did time for a federal bribery rap involving prison favors he had bought from guards on behalf of his incarcerated dad John) and Ben Dillingham, wealthy aide to ex-mayor Maureen O'Connor.

Arnold's revenge As the March election nears, corporate special-interest money continues to pour into state campaign coffers, including those of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "California Recovery Team," the finance committee the governor is using to bankroll his campaign for Prop 57, his $15 billion deficit bond issue. At the top of the California secretary of state's list of newly disclosed "late money" donors are the AG Spanos Companies, owned by Republican Alex Spanos of Chargers fame ($250,000); L.A. developer and Democrat Eli Broad, who has previously dumped hundreds of thousands into hit pieces against political foes of San Diego school superintendent Alan Bersin ($111,887); and Sempra Energy, parent of SDG&E ($50,000) ... 76th Assembly District Democratic candidate Vince Hall has been a beneficiary of independent expenditures made by the California Faculty Association, the labor union for professors and librarians at San Diego State and other California State Universities. Last Friday, the group spent $25,000 on his behalf. The same day, the California Correctional Officers Association, the state's prison guards union, spent $19,998. The day before that, the San Diego Area Political Action Committee, a credit union group, reported spending $10,000. But the biggest independent expenditure so far for Hall, $202,011, was from "Moderate Democrats for California." State disclosure reports reveal that the group's contributor ranks include such "moderate Democrats" as the San Manuel Tribal Administration, 21st Century Insurance, Farmers Group, Ameriquest Capital, 21st Century Insurance, Mercury General Corporation, Boeing Company, and American International Group.

-- Matt Potter

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