Big Eaters

— San Diego's legislative delegation continues to chow down and otherwise carouse at the expense of the Third House, Sacramento's nickname for the horde of free-spending lobbyists who frequently exercise more power over the fate of legislation than do members of the state Assembly and Senate. Near the front of the pack last year, according to an exposé in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, is Democratic assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, whom the paper ranks as number two among top gift recipients, with total freebies valued at $4811. Saldaña, who chairs the Assembly's Select Committee on Bioethics, Medicine, and Technology, reportedly got $346 in concert tickets from La Jolla's Amylin Pharmaceuticals and a $200 ticket to a holiday event from Biocom, a La Jolla-based biotech industry group. Number-one recipient is speaker Fabian Núñez, at $6018.

On the GOP side of the aisle, Assemblyman George Plescia, his wife, and ten staffers lived it up at Petco Park's Rolling Stones concert, with Ameriquest, a mortgage company, covering the cost of almost $4000. Plescia's partying hasn't been limited to the mainland. Last November he and wife Melissa dined at Longhi's and Spago, both in Maui, Hawaii, courtesy of Diageo, the big booze maker.

Closer to home, disclosure records show, the Viejas Indians hosted a raft of elected officials and their staffs in a restaurant at the tribe's Alpine casino. In January, Claudia Carrillo, staffer to GOP assemblywoman Shirley Horton, ate a meal worth $19.90 at the casino's Grove Steakhouse; county supervisor Greg Cox got a meal worth $20.86; then-75th Assembly District candidate Nathan Fletcher had lunch worth $30; and district attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state senator George Runner each ran up a $66 tab.

Up in Sacramento, Viejas shelled out $50.33 for Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy to have dinner at the swanky Esquire Grill on the K Street Mall. In February, Assemblyman George Plescia was treated to a $68.96 meal at Arco Arena. In March, Jimmy Blackman, staffer to Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, enjoyed a $93.25 meal at L.A.'s Westin Bonaventure, and Assemblywoman Saldaña dined at La Mesa's Brigantine for $25.

Other special interests greasing the legislative wheels included AT&T, the telecommunications giant that hopes to get a bill passed that would allow it to compete with cable TV companies without having to first obtain time-consuming and expensive franchises from local municipalities. Assemblywoman Saldaña got dinner worth $126.49 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as part of the company's sponsorship of the Assembly Democratic Retreat there. (She also had a $52 meal at the Hyatt Regency Monterey courtesy of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting giant.) In addition, AT&T put up $84.67 for Saldaña's district director, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, to sit in a Petco Park skybox during the World Baseball Classic; her husband Arturo got comped the same amount. Last October, Edgar Zazueta, legislative aide to Democratic senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, got a $78.84 ticket to see the System of a Down concert at Sacramento's Arco Arena. Christine Moore, Ducheny's deputy district director, and daughter Celine each got $48 tickets to the Holiday Bowl.

Oil company BP America owns a 26-seat luxury suite at Arco Arena -- home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team -- by virtue of purchasing Atlantic Richfield six years ago. The firm is a favorite among legislators and their staffs. It actually maintains a telephone hotline for them to book free tickets for games and other events. Since the beginning of the year, an array of local pols and their worker bees have taken advantage, including Phyllis Chow, legislative assistant to Senator Ducheny ($318); Assemblyman Plescia ($160); Shaun Flanigan, capitol director for Plescia ($150); and Beth Hummel, legislative assistant to Assemblyman Jay LaSuer ($160).

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