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Or are we talking tie-ins? "Online tonight: Barbie chat about East Timor massacre!" Willes is also a director of Black & Decker Corp. and The Talbots Inc. Could there be toolbox or soft career-dressing features in Southern California Living's future? A Times spokeswoman says no. In an e-mailed response, Willes said that while he "very much respects" the views of CEOs who stay off boards, he does not share them.
"I believe Times Mirror can learn things from Mattel that will help us grow our newspapers," he said. As for confilicts, Willes "always had and continue[s] to have complete confidence in the independence and integrity of our reporters and editors." Look for publisher Barbie this holiday season.
TWO WEEKS AGO, THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP MUSCLED A SURPRISE BILL through the California Legislature to stop behemoth warehouse stores from selling groceries. The bill would bar relocation or expansion for most, if not all, of Costco's 88 California stores, as well as stem the growth of Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target superstores. Lawmakers say the measure was designed to help mom-and-pop groceries, which are facing the squeeze from soaring warehouse food sales, and unions, which have yet to gain a toehold in the big-box industry. The Democrats have been less forthcoming about their ties to another interest group with a stake in the issue: supermarket chains such as Ralphs, which compete with the discount superstores.
Ron Burkle is the chairman of the Yucaipa Co., which owns several grocery chains, including Ralphs. He is also one of Governor Gray Davis' top contributors. On September 4, 1998, Ralphs donated $5,000 to Davis' campaign fund. On the 28th of the same month, Yucaipa donated an additional $50,000 to the gubernatorial coffers. On the 24th, Ralphs also donated $15,000 to Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. Sharon Davis, the governor's wife, worked until last year for the Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation. One of Davis' very good friends, Darius Anderson, also worked for Ralphs, in corporate communications. (Anderson is now a much-sought-after Sacramento lobbyist.)
Burkle is also a major donor to Democrats at the national level. At a 1994 fund-raiser at Burkle's Beverly Hills home, President Bill Clinton personally thanked the supermarket magnate and his wife, Jan. Burkle and other family members contributed $235,000 from 1997 to 1999 to Democratic national campaigns, including $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Web site. Now, OffBeat is no fan of big boxes, which have helped destroy downtown districts in small cities coast to coast. But we'd like to know whether we're watching a David-vs.-Goliath battle, or simply an intramural bout between competing special interests. "I've only heard [Burton] emphasize the mom-and-pop stuff," said Senator Burton's spokesman, Dave Sebeck. No word from Davis' office on whether he will sign the bill.