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A Constituent Is a Constituent Is a Constituent

May 19, 2003|Patt Morrison | Times Staff Writer

They're the Smith Brothers, all right, but not the soothing cough-drop pair. These are more your irritant brothers.

Dino and Troy Smith are somewhere in this wide world, but they're not where San Francisco cops want them to be: in the clink, suspected of pulling off the biggest jewelry heist in the city's history.

But wherever they are, they had an ally in California Rep. Barbara Lee, an Oakland Democrat.

It's called constituent service, and when Troy Devin Smith asked the local member of Congress for help, a letter went out from her office to the Coast Guard on his behalf, asking for a review of the case.

Both brothers became merchant mariners after they got out of prison in 1998. But when their extensive criminal histories emerged, the Coast Guard revoked their mariners' papers -- documents they say they somehow earned during the very years they were in prison, and earned moreover on the strength of shipping experience in Nauru, a Pacific island republic eight miles square that's little more than a fertilizer mine.

Even as Lee's letter was making its way up the chain of command, four men were making their way, underground, into a jewelry store near Union Square, tunneling through a wall and making off with an estimated $6 million worth. The Smith Brothers are suspects.

Michael Rubiano, Lee's senior staff assistant, wouldn't talk about the matter, but did say that Lee offers all constituents the help they seek -- but doesn't have time to check out their stories.

"We don't advocate," Rubiano said. "We say, 'My constituent informs me that.... ' We never say anything as if it were fact. We just present the fact as the constituent would be presenting it."

You Can Take the Cop Out of the Force, But ...

Shop till you drop somebody.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, the Orange Republican, was cruising the aisles at the Safeway in downtown Sacramento, the unofficial PX for a number of legislators who have to spend their weekdays living near the shop.

Coffee filters, half and half, orange juice -- and, not on the list, handcuffs. He heard a different sort of call for cleanup on aisle whatever: a lot of screaming and scuffling. The ex-LAPD reserve officer hustled over to find two security guards wrestling with a man who'd slugged one of them.

Spitzer did his LAPD leap, helped to take the guy down and slapped on the cuffs. The police roared up, says Spitzer, "and I went back to shopping."

Rising Stars, and We're Not Talking Hollywood

The Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, whose "New Democrat" strategy helped Bill Clinton get to the White House, is scouting the farm teams, and has found an even 100 up-and-comers worth monitoring -- 11 of them in California.

On the "100 to Watch" list: Phil Angelides, the state treasurer; state Controller Steve Westly; Assemblymen Lou Correa, George Nakano and Juan Vargas; L.A. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo; L.A. City Council members Wendy Greuel, Alex Padilla (those two may be about to grapple for the council's presidency) and Jack Weiss; San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales; and San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom.

(Republicans may have all 100 on a watch list too, for different reasons.)

Where's Letterman When You Need Him?

Danney "the skunk at the" Ball is a Republican who insists he's running for U.S. Senate, even though his own party is ignoring the Hemet songwriter.

And he's issued his top-10 list of reasons he wants to be a senator, among them:

"Because nobody else wants the job." (No evidence that's true.)

"Because I want to prove that someone can do a bang-up job who is not simply trying to buy the seat with lots of cash." (No evidence that's possible.)

"Because I want to be on the George W. Bush Team that wins BIG in California in 2004! A moderate can NOT win this state....

"Because I love to see my picture in the paper giving awards to veterans and American heroes.

"Because deep down, the leadership of the GOP in California understands that Danney Ball may be just THE MAN to bring the party back to life.... "

And then again, it may not.

George (the Magazine) by Any Other Name

George the concept is still in, but George the name is out.

The defunct political magazine co-founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. is still being resuscitated in Los Angeles by the daughter of a onetime JFK aide.

But it won't be named George.

The announcement -- in an unfortunate choice of words, given the grassy knoll and all, says: "The Kennedy family has shot down the idea of resurrecting George.... "

So Helen O'Donnell, daughter of "Irish Mafia" advisor Kenneth O'Donnell, still hoping for a July 4 launch issue, has set out the casting couch to find a new name (as well as for investors).

Anyone with ideas can send them along to No money, just credit.

Her friends have suggested Politically Blonde, a saucier title than her other idea, Common Good, and one that matches her hair color.

And "since we are in L.A.," she says, it "makes sense." (But will it alienate the brunet and redhead demographic?)

Points Taken

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