Monday, November 18, 2013

California State Senator and Brother’s Charity Under Scrutiny

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, a leaked affidavit of an FBI agent asserts that California State Senator Ronald S. Calderon has offered political favors in connection with facilitating contributions to a charitable nonprofit established by his brother, Tom Calderon, with less than entirely charitable goals in mind.  Key excerpts of the story follow:

Calderon … allegedly accepted $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a studio executive in exchange for pursuing legislation to expand tax breaks for film companies, according to a sealed FBI affidavit made public by a cable network.

The agent agreed to pay $25,000 of the money to a nonprofit set up by the senator's brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, says the affidavit ….

"We have this nonprofit. It is called Californians for Diversity," Calderon told the agent, according to a transcript of a recording included in the document.

The group, Calderon said, was set up to advocate positions on issues being debated in California.

"Then Tom and I down the road, we build that up, we can pay ourselves," the senator allegedly told the agent. "Just kind of make, you know, part of [a] living."

The nonprofit, formed in 2008, also received $25,000 from "Yes We Can," a political committee of the California Legislative Latino Caucus, which made the donation in January.

The FBI affidavit alleges the "Yes We Can" donation was arranged by Sen. Kevin de Leon …"in exchange for Ronald Calderon agreeing not to challenge Senator [Ricardo] Lara to become the Chairman of the Latino Caucus."

"They are doing exactly what contribution limits are there to guard against," said [Loyola Law Professor Jessica] Levinson, a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

According to the story, Calderon and De Leon have denied any wrongdoing, and nobody named in the affidavit has yet been charged with a crime.

The Times reports on connections between other California lawmakers and various nonprofit entities, but pinpoints nothing of such import as the facts surrounding Senator Calderon.


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