Cash and ethics

For decades, Chargers owner Alex Spanos has been a financial mainstay of Republicans far and wide, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a vast array of GOP candidates and officeholders, from city councilmembers and mayors, such as Susan Golding and Pete Wilson, to presidents of the United States, including Jerry Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes. But Spanos, the Stockton-based billionaire builder who turned 86 in September, is suffering from a form of progressive dementia, according to his family, and is no longer taking care of daily business. Maybe that explains why Spanos and various family members, including son Dean, now president of A.G. Spanos Companies, have so far given a total of $32,800 to the 2010 reelection bid of liberal Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, according to a Congressional Quarterly database. But other things may have been in play.

In September of last year, Alex, Dean, and their wives gave $9600 to friend and fellow Greek-American Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat running in next week’s primary for the Illinois senate seat once held by Barack Obama. On his website, 33-year-old Giannoulias, the state treasurer of Illinois, boasts that he is “the first U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois to refuse contributions from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists.” An Obama ally and regular basketball partner, Giannoulias junketed to Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus last summer with Illinois senior senator Dick Durbin. The current occupant of the senate seat, Roland Burris, appointed by ousted Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich, had once been expected to seek election. Then, in February of last year, the Boxer-chaired Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into charges that Burris had failed to testify honestly before an Illinois House committee regarding a promise to raise campaign money for Blagojevich.

In late May, at the request of the committee, a federal judge unsealed a damaging wiretap of a Burris conversation with Blagojevich’s brother about the promised contribution, which Burris ultimately didn’t make. Burris soldiered on for a month, but in early July announced he was dropping out of the race, clearing the way for Giannoulias and others. The Spanos money to Boxer came in August. (In November, Burris was “admonished” by Boxer’s committee.)

The Spanos clan hasn’t totally abandoned Republicans. In April of last year, Alex, Dean, and other family members gave a total of $16,400 to the reelection bid of John Ensign, the GOP senator from Nevada. In June, Ensign made headlines for his affair with a staffer’s wife. The Spanos operation has major holdings in Las Vegas. Alex also gave $3000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

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