Breaking News from Al Jazeera: the Fall of the House of Calderon


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[UPDATES: Link to Part One of the Video Report.  Link to Part Two of the Video Report.]

You can’t see this broadcast live if you can’t get Al Jazeera America — and if you’re in OC and you don’t get your digital channels from a satellite, you probably can’t — but that channel has just posted it’s big story on the FBI investigation into State Senator Ron Calderon (whose mostly Los Angeles district covers most of Buena Park), and it looks huge.

[Ron Calderon's] days as a big spender may soon be over. The FBI is hot on his trail in an investigation that could become California’s biggest legislative scandal in more than two decades and could signal the downfall of a political dynasty. The FBI employed an undercover sting for more than a year that ended when agents raided the senator’s office in Sacramento in June.

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit subsequently learned of the secret operation. This account is based on a 124-page affidavit, still under seal, filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in support of a search warrant used in the raid.

The names of several other senators, including the Senate president and the chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, have surfaced in the case, although none has been implicated.

The document lays out a sordid tale of alleged bribery and corruption. Undercover FBI agents posed as independent movie executives interested in taking advantage of a program in which films with budgets of $1 million or more are eligible for special tax credits. The agents, focusing on Calderon, asked the senator to help lower the budget threshold to $500,000. Calderon, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industries, agreed to help lower it to $750,000 but wanted financial assistance provided to his grown children, the affidavit says.

Al Jazeera has posted a page with four other stories on the Calderons — brothers Charles, Thomas, and Ron, joined just this year by Charles’s son Ian in an assembly district bordering northwest Orange County — here.  Ian Calderon, who narrowly defeated Rudy Bermudez in last summer’s primary, has not apparently been implicated in any scandal, so I have no basis to believe that he belongs in Al Jazeera’s photo layout for any reason other than his lineage and surname.  (In other words, I suspect that his District Director does not need to freak out when he sees the “Calderon Dynasty” photos at that page, unless he knows something I don’t.)

[Update: One of the stories newly posted about Ron Calderon has breaking news about his involvement in an alleged Worker's Compensation scandal.  Welcome to the State Senate, Tony Mendoza!  Am I right in calculating that a special election would come late enough so that he'd serve less than half of a term, making him eligible for an extra term?  Yes, I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but....]

Like most other California Democrats, I hope that Speaker John Perez is only part of this picture literally.  (Photo from LA Times.)

Tom Calderon, who last week decided not to run for his brother Ron’s 32nd District State Senate seat when he is termed out next year, was recently in the news when tapes emerged of his shaking down a local water district with threats that he would get Speaker John Perez to pass a bill dissolving that agency.  I’m of the school that notes that while the Calderons probably had the influence to get such a bill passed, it would probably be accomplished by presenting the bill to Perez as being legitimate on the merits, so there’s no actual evidence that Perez knew how Tom Calderon was using his name for nefarious purposes.

As I have said repeated to my fellow Democrats: we need a zero tolerance policy for this sort of thing.  Republicans, especially in Orange County, can get away with all sorts of things thanks to the watchless eyes of DA Tony Rackauckas.  A Democrat won’t get that sort of slack — and enough tar will be loaded onto the brush to attempt to smear the whole party.  Like Caeser’s wife Calpurnia, in this political muck Democrats have to strive to be above suspicion just to break even.

Obviously, none of this helps.


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.