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Friday, July 13, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jean Godden / Times staff columnist

Lobbyist lurking in disguise?

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There's something to learn from a story Dan Newman, Initiative 773 campaign manager, has been telling.

The incident occurred last Friday as I-773 forces were getting ready to file petitions with the Secretary of State's office in Olympia. Supporters had gathered for speeches on the Capitol steps and were getting their act together when they ran into the prototypical tourist — T-shirt, shorts, goofy hat and a carful of kids.

Newman says: "The guy kept asking questions. Where should he park? What were we doing? He stuck around and took a ton of pictures."

Newman told him the initiative, if approved, would add 60 cents to a pack of cigarettes. It aims to extend health-care access to more low-income families and pay for tobacco-control programs.

The tourist continued to snap pictures, accompanying the I-773 supporters into (Secretary of State) Sam Reed's office. Afterward, someone asked Newman, "Do you know who that is?"

Newman said he didn't. That's when he found out the identity of the "tourist": Joe Daniels, a lobbyist for Philip Morris. Asked about the encounter, Daniels said: "It was just a coincidence. I was showing my niece Alicia, here from Florida, around."

Still, there's a moral: Beware of tourists wearing goofy hats.

•   •   •

Concrete offer: You have to give a certain Wedgwood resident credit for trying. Earlier this month, the seller, identified only as "Sonicsby5," offered "clean concrete fill chunks" on eBay, the auction Web site.

The sales pitch: "Got a low spot in your yard? Need to fill that hole Uncle Bob accidentally dug? Need to cover something up the EPA doesn't need to know about (wink wink)? This is your chance: This fabulous Wedgwood premium concrete was recently broken up and dumped right next to the street. Easy to pick up; I'll lend a hand. Beer provided — limit one per adult."

An accompanying picture showed an uninspiring mound of rubble. But, despite the seller's offer to throw in "a certified chunk of Seattle's heralded Kingdome," the auction closed last week with nary a bid.

•   •   •

Dress code: Most elegantly clad diners at the Italian Trade Commission dinner at the Rainier Club on Wednesday were Angiolo and Donatella Boncompagni. Other guests, including Seattle Mayor Paul Schell and Renato Locchi, mayor of Perugia, Italy, Seattle's sister city, wore standard Seattle "business dress," while the Boncompagnis cut a swath in black tie.

Angiolo, who works at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, said he and his wife had been rerouted through Vancouver, B.C. They eventually made it to Seattle. But their luggage didn't.

Rather than attend in T-shirts and jeans, they rented a tuxedo and beaded gown. Said one observer, "Italians always want to look their best."

•   •   •

Name game: Someone — obviously a Seattle Mariners fan — altered the sign on the Chiron Building on Western Avenue. There was a big purple "I" in front of the building's name.

•   •   •

Vanity fare: A reader, back from Pocatello, Idaho, reports spotting a VW Beetle with a flatbed installed on the back. The license: BED BUG.

Jean Godden appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Phone 206-464-8300. E-mail: jgodden @seattletimes.com.

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