Sen. Pres. Don Perata . Why is the Federal investigation of alleged corruption lacking blog coverage?

During the past week the Orange Juice blog alone has posted 25 stories about Orange County sheriff Mike Carona. No one can accuse this team of overlooking this major news story. We even had three stories about another Republican questioning Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamonte’s (legally received) campaign contributions. Somehow I feel as though this was beat up on Republican week on this non-partisan blog. That’s OK! We have broad shoulders and are not directed to cover any specific stories.

However, there is another huge story that has been below the Juice radar for the past few years which appeared in Sunday’s LA Times that I feel warrants our exposure and debate. Tim Reiterman’s headline on LA Times California page reads: “Probe of Perata dealings quiet, but alive.” For a Liberal paper I was pleased to see this coverage.

The wheels of justice move very slowly, especially when you are a very high profile politician as surely the case for Don Perata, President of the California Senate. After the governor, Don Perata is the second most powerful elected official in Sacramento. He is also regarded as “the Teflon Don” in CA. For the past few years Don has been under federal investigation for corruption yet continues to function in our state legislature. There might be a parallel to his case with those of OC Treasurer Chris Street and/or OC Sheriff Mike Carona. I’ll let you decide.

The Times reports that the most recent documents show that “Perata’s legal defense fund has spent about $1.3 million.”

As I researched multiple news reports I found one newspaper called it PeRATaGate referring to BART records that the federal grand jury had expressed interest in obtaining. One report states that a BART contract was issued without seeking bids.

I was able to locate a copy of a United States District Court SUBPOENA which includes the names of Don Perata, his son Nick R. Perata, Oakland lobbyist and former legislative aid Lily Hu, Lily Hu & Associates and a dozen other named individuals or entities. They were each required to provide the following documentation or to appear before the Grand Jury.

The Subpoena requests “all records referring or relating to direct or indirect payments of monies or items of value and/or incurrence of liabilities to or from any of the persons or entities named,,,”;

“correspondence and any other documents referring or relating to any direct or indirect, internal or external communication with or regarding any of the persons or entities…”;

“work product and any other documents constituting or referring or relating to goods or services received directly or indirectly from those persons and entities named,”etc.

From what I have read it appears that the investigation of Don Perata and his associates dates back to 2001. One area under scrutiny involves a seismic repair bond by BART in which the federal grand jury is questioning 26 BART checks to Hu’s political consulting firm between June 2001 and December 2003.

The FBI was “searching for evidence of illegal payments by companies or persons made directly to Perata or through an intermediary such as Hu, (a former Perata aide,) with intent of making sure they received a contract or a project approval from the city of Oakland.”

In addition to BART, several other public agencies have been asked to provide documents. They include Caltrans, the Port of Oakland, the city of Alameda and the Alameda County Transit Authority. They are each included in the FBI discovery phase as they seek a linkage to any corruption involving the Senator.

In this case we have an investigation that was triggered by an ex-boyfriend. Mr. Perata’s aid Lily Hu’s former boyfriend blew the whistle in which he has alleged the existence of kickbacks facilitated by Ms. Hu. As stated above, the wheels of justice move very slowly, especially when the target is so large.

An illustration of a gray cloud. “Nick Perata has received more than $500,000 worth of campaign consulting work from his father and state and local initiatives since 2000… he then paid back his father more than $100,000 by paying rent on an office and a home owned by the elder Perata.” Note: I recall reading another report where Don’s son Nick received over $one million dollars.

He is slick. We all read that cliche “follow the money.” As Mr. Perata fights off allegations of kickbacks he decides to open a campaign committee entitled “Taxpayers for Perata” to raise money for a seat on the Board of Equalization in 2010. I read that he has transferred $274,000 from that account into his legal defense fund. The real question one needs to ask. Does he truly wish to step into a much lower stature post in Sacramento or is this simply another method of moving funds from donors who think his aspirations are valid?

We joke about the Monopoly game “get out of jail free” card. In this case, as confirmed above, Don’s defense team is surely not free. Let’s wait and see if or when any federal indictments come down. If so, I will be curious to see how much coverage we read on the blogs.

About Larry Gilbert