The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raid on Sen. Ron Calderon’s offices last summer may have been the tip of the iceberg of an unfolding corruption and bribery scandal. A complete picture of the investigation—which may implicate other elected officials—is still evolving, with more revelations likely to surface.
Now, a freshman assemblywoman who represents some of the same Southeast L.A. County communities as Calderon, and others, is calling for Calderon’s immediate resignation.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia on Monday was the first to call for Sen. Calderon to resign.
“As the unsealed FBI affidavit and subsequent news reports have revealed a legal whirlwind surrounding Senator Ron Calderon, I must speak out. It is with mixed feelings, but with strong conviction that today I ask Senator Calderon to step down from his office to allow this black cloud to be removed from over the Capitol and over the State of California,” Garcia said in a written statement.
She goes on to say that Calderon’s innocence is presumed, but the controversy is causing a distraction that undermines the relationship between the government and the residents Calderon represents.
She was joined this week by The Los Angeles Daily News, political blog CityWatch LA and others who also called for Calderon’s resignation, saying the nature of the bribery and pay to play accusations spelled out in the FBI affidavit and a television report by Al Jazeera America that aired last week, undermine democracy, even if Calderon has yet to be charged with breaking the law.
State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg removed Sen. Calderon from the California Film Commission following the Al Jazeera America report.
Calderon, the youngest of three brothers who have all held state elected office and whose family is often referred to as political dynasty, is accused of accepting bribes for influencing legislation to benefit those who made payments to him and his family, according to the FBI affidavit acquired by Al Jazeera America, a news channel in the U.S.
In June, raids on Sen. Calderon’s offices were seemingly tied to an investigation of local water agencies and a lucrative contract that appeared to benefit his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon.
The 124-page FBI affidavit was used to obtain the search warrant for the raid in June, according to Al Jazeera America.
The affidavit implicates Sen. Calderon in receiving bribes and gifts—for himself and members of his family—from an FBI agent who posed as a Hollywood movie executive, and from a hospital executive who allegedly over billed the State Compensation Insurance Fund.
The affidavit also says Calderon aided the owner of a Long Beach-based spinal surgery hospital that received inflated workers compensation payments in return for monetary compensation made to his brother, Tom and his son Zachary. In return, he fought in the legislature to ensure laws would not hurt the spinal surgery business, according to the news report.
Similarly, the undercover FBI agent in the sting operation who posed as a movie studio executive, asked Calderon to use his influence to help him get tax breaks, and paid him thousands of dollars and gave him lavish gifts in return for his support. Calderon’s children, son Zachery and daughter Jessica, were also named in the affidavit as receiving money through the alleged deal Calderon struck with the undercover agent.
In addition, Californians for Diversity, a nonprofit connected to the California Latino Caucus that was run by Tom Calderon, was allegedly used as the Calderons personal “slush fund,” where money was funneled through, according to the Al Jazeera America report.
An unnamed “Los Angeles Councilman” in the affidavit has also caused some speculation, with residents and local officials wondering when the identity will be revealed and how he or she played a part in the alleged wrongdoings.
Last week, Councilman Jose Huizar spokesperson Rick Coca said the councilman’s office was contacted last year by a man they now presume to be the same undercover FBI agent in the Al Jazeera report and the FBI affidavit. He told the Los Angeles Daily News that the man, referred by Calderon’s office, inquired about business space in the councilman’s district. A member of Huizar’s staff met with the man, gave him the information he requested, but never heard from him again.
Calderon spokesperson Mario Beltran, told EGP that the senator’s office is not issuing any comment.
However, Mark Geragos, Sen. Calderon’s attorney, told the Los Angeles Times, “My guess is it is fabricated and untrue.” He also said the only illegal act committed was by whoever leaked the suppossed sealed affidavit and the organization who released it.
Calderon, who resides in Montebello, represents many southeast LA County cities, including Bell Gardens, Montebello, Pico Rivera and other predominantly Latino communities.