Tuesday, October 11, 2005

How a strip-club scandal helps Arnold

The ever-insightful Dan Weintraub handicaps the race for mayor of San Diego. (Free reg'n may be required.) He also blogs about why voter intensity in California's second-largest city could give Schwarzenegger's reform agenda a boost. When the Democratic candidate, maverick surfer Donna Frye, is threatening to force the government into bankruptcy unless public employees take benefit cuts, you know this gorgeous city's administration has jumped the tracks.

But wait. There's more. The San Diego debacles go beyond creative public financing and overly generous employee benefits. Interest in Frye's earlier write-in candidacy got traction from a scandal involving two council members and the Galardi brothers, who owned strip clubs there and in Vegas. And the Galardis' dirty money -- they bribed public officials in both cities in the hopes of getting laws governing their strip clubs relaxed -- ended a handful of political careers in both places.

The Galardis' shenanigans in San Diego could wind up bringing reform-minded voters to the polls, and giving Arnold's agenda an unexpected boost.

The most noteworthy Sin City pol wrecked in the scandal was former Clark County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, a successful, straight-arrow flower-shop owner who raised more than 20 children and took an envelope of cash from the Galardis. Also ensnared in the bribery meltdown were two of Harry Reid's youthful proteges -- former commissioners Erin Kenny (the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002) and Dario Herrera (who lost the race for a new congressional seat that year).

The biggest loser, though, was former commissioner and onetime cop Lance Malone, who served as the Galardis' bag man in both Vegas and San Diego. Malone was convicted along with two SD councilmen in July of corruption, but appeals continue. (A collection of the Review-Journal's reporting is here.)

It was both fascinating and appalling to watch this old-style political payoff scheme unravel. Wouldn't it be priceless if the biggest payoff from this Vegas-led conspiracy lands with Schwarzenegger, and by extension, the forces of reform in California?

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