After five years of booze, bareback runners and increasingly bad press, insurance giant ING is bowing out as sponsor of San Francisco's annual Bay to Breakers race.
"All I can say officially is, they were a wonderful sponsor and chose not to renew for the 100th anniversary next year," said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the race, which is run by Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Unofficially, however, word is ING is fed up with all the bad publicity that the race has generated in recent years, especially the complaints of residents around the Panhandle and Alamo Square about revelers and runners urinating, defecating and generally behaving rudely.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi says the problem isn't the race itself - it's control of the floating costume party that accompanies it. "The fact that there are 60,000 participants, and over half didn't register - including the mayor - just illustrates that they need a more modernized way of managing the most unique race of its kind in the United States," he said.
Last year and this, race organizers tried to keep a lid on the troubles by banning kegs and glass bottles and boosting the number of portable toilets along the 7.5-mile route from the Embarcadero to the Great Highway.
But it hasn't stopped the complaints.
While nobody will say exactly how much ING paid to be the race's chief sponsor, it's believed the figure was at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars. And unless somebody else steps up to the starting line, one race insider told us, there won't be a 100th anniversary run to celebrate.
ING spokesman Joseph Loparco said in a brief statement only that the company had reached its goal with its sponsorship, and that it wishes the event "many more years of success."
Down the stretch they come: It's been the most expensive and one of the most negative primaries ever seen, but former eBay exec Meg Whitman appears to be regaining momentum with voters in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
However, the bruising battle could leave her as damaged goods for the fall campaign.
Whitman's polling shows her beating state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, 53 percent to 27 percent. Tracking polls taken by Democrats have the spread at 45 percent to 25 percent.
However, even Whitman's polling gives her a favorability rating among Republicans of just 58 percent - and the Democratic polls have her total among all voters at a mere 28 percent.
All of which makes the Dems much more comfortable about the November contest with Jerry Brown.
Air Obama: Unlike President Obama's last visit here, when the Democratic Party picked up the whole cost, taxpayers will be paying at least part of the tab for his current trip to the Bay Area.
Obama's October visit was purely political, so the Dems had to pay the full freight except for security.
This time, the White House tossed in an "official" visit to Fremont to tour a solar panel company that is receiving federal stimulus funds. So although he's raising a ton of money for Sen. Barbara Boxer and other Senate Democrats, Obama is technically here on business, and as such taxpayers will pick up a piece.
"They literally break it down minute by minute - then send you a bill," said one of the fundraisers who helped put together both trips.
By the way, the Secret Service is hoping to avoid tying up traffic on the Bay Bridge and Interstate 880 today by using a Marine helicopter to shuttle the president to Fremont, weather permitting.
With all the hype surrounding the president's visit to Solyndra, which received a $525 million federal loan guarantee to build a solar panel plant, it's worth noting that the "exclusive financial adviser" for the company's deal was none other than Goldman Sachs.
"Oh geez," said White House spokesman Adam Abrams, when this bit of irony was pointed out to him.
By the way, for you trivia buffs, Obama is staying at the "Presidential Super Suite" at the San Francisco Marriott - complete with spiral staircase - at a bargain $3,500 a night.
Check out the 360-degree tour of the suite at links.sfgate.com/ZJSP.
Think pink: San Francisco police Officers Moli Finau and Rich Austria were near Lincoln High School on a recent afternoon when they spotted a woman with distinctively pink hair on a passing Muni bus, writing the tag "Pinky" on the windows with a pink marker.
When they got on the bus, they found matching pink on her hands and the pink marker in her purse - making for a very color-coordinated case.
EXTRA! Catch our blog at www.sfgate.com/matierandross.
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle