Count another victim among the ever-shrinking Capitol press corps.  The Union-Tribune’s Jim Sweeney, who has been on the Capitol Beat for the U-T for nearly 25 years, is the latest layoff victim. Sweeney’s departure means that Mike Gardner is the last man standing in what once was a four-man Capitol bureau. Sweeney’s departure also highlights a major hole in Capitol coverage. With the departure of Sweeney, the LA Times’ Dan Morain and Gannett’s Jake Henshaw, that leaves only the Riverside Press-Enterprise’s Jim Miller among the daily Capitol reporters who cover Indian gaming and tribal issues on a regular basis…While the hacks may be dwindling, the number of political flacks just keeps growing. Aaron Read and Associates is opening up a new PR firm to compliment its lobbying business. The firm has hired Rachel Pitts, formerly of Porter Novelli, to help launch the new operation. And Vince Duffy and Mark Capitolo have formed a new consulting firm. Duffy is a former Gray Davis speechwriter, and Capitolo is a former Don Perata staffer.

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