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[whitespace] Gentleman Jim

In the weeks leading up to his swearing in as mayor of Saratoga in 1998, Jim Shaw contemplated resigning from the City Council. He had been diagnosed with cancer and didn't want to take over the job if he couldn't give it 100 percent. After talking to doctors, Shaw decided to give it a go. This week, however, the cancer ended his life at age 72 in the middle of his term as mayor (see full story). The septuagenarian burst onto the local political scene in 1996 as the champion of a controversial slow-growth initiative, Measure G, which voters eventually approved. Since coming onto the council, Shaw displayed a charm and wit that could always provide a chuckle during a tense debate. "Jim will be sorely missed," opines former Mayor Don Wolfe. "He had the respect of everyone in the community."

Tech the Money and Run: Will Internet bosses play it safe or will they help upstart Ted Lempert (pictured), a high-tech darling in the Legislature, take on incumbent state Sen. Byron Sher?

Intraparty Cannibalism

Peninsula pundits just can't tell how serious Palo Alto Assemblyman Ted Lempert is about challenging incumbent state Sen. Byron Sher--Lempert's law professor at Stanford--in the March 2000 Democratic primary. There is a growing chorus of prognosticators betting that Lempert will give it a whirl. But there are still those--including Lempert allies--who think the Tedinator is just bluffing, holding out for a gubernatorial appointment that will serve as a placemarker until he runs again in four years. After all, the skeptics say, Lempert faces major fundraising obstacles. Sher has aggressively tried to siphon off the traditional Democratic sources of campaign cash like labor, enviros and party leadership. According to campaign finance reports that came out this week, Sher's campaign account has swelled to $900,000, thanks in large part to the generosity of Senate prez John Burton, who wants to discourage intraparty cannibalism. Lempert, who reported a respectable $282,000 cash on hand, insists he's not worried about being outspent. If that sounds like loser's spin, Lempert could very well have an ace in the hole. Consider the high-rollers with whom the author of the Internet Tax Freedom Act associates: Earlier this year, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen held a fundraiser for Lempert at his posh Palo Alto home, an event TechNet--the industry's political arm--helped organize. Among those in attendance that night were eBay marketing executive Steve Westly, a close friend of Lempert's, and former TechNet chief Reed Hastings. Lempert cautions that he is still not an official candidate and that money from the TechNet event went to his pre-existing Assembly bank account. But he quickly adds, "If I decide to run, I could use that money" for the Senate campaign. The big question is: Do Internet bosses gamble on an upstart like Lempert the way they might on a promising start-up? Sher aide Mike Potter thinks not. While Potter concedes that Lempert has been a good friend of high-tech, Sher certainly is not an enemy. This year Sher authored a bill boosting R&D tax breaks so coveted by tech companies. "These guys are one-trick ponies," Potter postures. "[Lempert's] only chance to take Byron out is to make it look like [Sher] hasn't been good to high-tech, which he has."

Shell Game

During election season politicians play a little shell game to make it look like they have more money in their coffers than they really do. The reason is simple: Contributors want to back a winner, and a candidate boasting a $100,000 war chest sounds more formidable than a pretender with $1,000. Here's how the game works: A candidate loans himself or gets his friends to loan him some dough right before the mandatory financial reporting period, thereby padding his financial stats. Immediately afterward the candidate returns the loan. ... The Hollister Freelance evidently fell for this old trick last week when 28th Assembly District candidate Jeff Denham boasted that he had raised more than $120,000 during the campaign's first fundraising window between Jan. 1 and June 30. "This is remarkable," the Reep agribusinessman gushed. But a closer inspection of Denham's campaign records tells a less flattering story: $44,300 of Denham's boasted total are so-called enforceable promises, money that hasn't actually been donated yet. And Denham and some associates loaned the campaign another $54,9000. The listed due dates for the loans range from July 1, 1999, to July 22, 1999. After deducting all the fake money, the actual cash raised by Denham is a more modest $10,130. "It did sound impressive in his press release," sniffs Tab Berg, a consultant for Denham opponent Laura Perry, "but unfortunately for Jeff, we have public disclosure statements."

Search and Employ

No termed-out local pol seemed to spend more time scanning the Help Wanted ads this year than ex-SJ Councilgal Trixie Johnson. Until recently, it seemed like everyone--hacks and elected officials alike--had landed a job or appointment but Trixie. Sen. Byron Sher even tried to create a job for Johnson on the state's Integrated Waste Management Board, to no avail. Trash-talk aside, Johnson can once again count herself among the valley's employed. A couple of weeks ago, ex-Supe Rod Diridon--a 1994 term-limit victim--announced Johnson's appointment as the new research director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. According to the Diridon, the institute's chief conductor, Johnson "was appointed after an exhaustive national search and interviews with several highly qualified finalists." Among Johnson's advertised qualifications were her stints on the Valley Transportation Authority and as chair of the council's Transportation and Land Use Committee. One skeptical transportation professional questioned the retired politician's qualifications. Sneers the source, "I'm sure her M.A. in English Lit is of great relevance."

Guaranteed Contract

Readers learned this Sunday from Mercury News executive editor David Yarnold that fallen star high-tech columnist Chris Nolan has been "reassigned" to the paper's Peninsula bureau and has been stripped of her "Talk Is Cheap" column. But Yarnold omitted a salient detail from his Perspective piece: Despite being demoted to the journalistic farm leagues, Nolan will still draw her major-league salary. The Newspaper Guild's contract with the paper guarantees that Nolan will still make her reported six-figure salary. "We have a no-pay-cut provision in our contract," a union official confirms. Nolan was suspended and demoted after she bought "friends and family stock" earlier this year from Autoweb.com's IPO and quickly made a tidy $9,000 profit. She got the exclusive offer from Autoweb's CEO, Dean DeBiase, someone Nolan has described as an old friend whom she met before moving to California. Nolan has her defenders in the Internet community, some of whom presumably designed the "Friends of Chris Nolan" webpage, which gives her side of the story in detail. Unfortunately, it never identifies exactly who her "friends" are.

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From the August 5-11, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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