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Lawmakers react to Sen. Ron Calderon investigation

June 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Senate sergeant posted a "Do Not Enter" sign on California state Sen. Ron Calderon's locked office in Sacramento, forbidding anyone from coming in on Wednesday. Even his staff couldn't go to work. At the Banking and Finance Institutions Committee hearing, Calderon was absent.

All this comes a day after the FBI raided the Montebello Democrat's two Capitol offices. Agents carted away boxes and other items that may be relevant to an investigation of a public corruption case in Los Angeles County.

The FBI declined to say why it's searching, but the Calderon name came up when the agency looked into the way the Central Basin Water District gave out contracts. It made for a very somber day as lawmakers tried to resume work.

"Whenever you have something like this, it's sad, whether it happens at the local level, city council, a school board, a water district or the state Senate. It's a sad day," said Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).

The FBI hasn't searched a Capitol office in 25 years. The last time was during the late 1980s scandal called "Shrimp Scam," where agents set up a sting that led to 14 convictions for bribery.

In 2004, the FBI raided the Oakland homes of then-Senate President Don Perata and his son, focusing on their business dealings, but charges were never filed. Lawmakers say Californians shouldn't rush to judgment on the Calderon case.

"I think we just have to take a deep breath and see what's being said, see what's being investigated, see where this is all going," said Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina).

Government watchdog groups say California is one of the most scrutinized legislatures in the country because of the precedent-setting policies it tackles and the money flowing through in campaign contributions.

Calderon comes from a political dynasty that has had a family member serve in the legislature since 1983. His brother, Charles, was recently termed out and his nephew, Ian, is a freshman lawmaker. Ron is considered a business-friendly moderate.

"The Sacramento Bee reported that he had accepted $40,000 in gifts, but that doesn't include campaign contributions. He's received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions over his lifetime as a political legislator," said Phillip Ung with California Common Cause.

Senate President Darrell Steinberg says members are cooperating fully with the investigation. It comes at a time when lawmakers are trying to pass a budget by the mid-June deadline.

Although Calderon has not spoken out about the investigation, his attorney, Mark Geragos, said in a statement, "Apparently the federal government has no problem violating their own secrecy and sealing rules. It is shameful that the FBI would seal a search warrant and then leak it. It is shameful and they should apologize."

Geragos called the investigation a witch hunt.

In 2009, the senator was investigated for using campaign money for personal use. He was investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which found that there was no wrongdoing.


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