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THE NOONER for October 31, 2013
Al Jazeera America posted a 124-page still-sealed affidavit detailing an elaborate sting operation by FBI Los Angeles looking into Ron Calderon, which led to the June 4 raid of his offices. Al Jazeera America reports:
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.
. . .
Separately, the FBI court filing says, Calderon also used his son, Zachary, to accept kickbacks from a hospital executive, Michael D. Drobot, whose companies have received more than $161 million in state insurance payments. The state has sued Drobot, alleging he was behind “multiple fraudulent schemes."
. . .
In late October, for example, the undercover agent reserved a table for Calderon at The Bank, a nightclub inside the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Calderon and a friend went to the nightclub and, according to the affidavit, racked up a $3,939.56 bill at the agent's expense. Calderon took a photograph of himself with rappers Nelly and T.I. and emailed it to the agent.
Two months later, the undercover agent purchased a $5,000 ticket for Calderon to attend a fundraiser for state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who represents a Los Angeles district. The event was held during a Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas.
The story and affadavit allege payments made to or for the benefit of Ron Calderon's children, the offer of state employment to the "girlfriend" of the undercover agent, undisclosed gifts, and $5,000 a month in payments to Tom Calderon from the Latino Legislative Caucus through a nonprofit he controls, and payments from a health care provider to Tom Calderon to seek favorable legislation.
Ron Calderon is termed-out of the State Senate next year, and brother Tom recently withdrew from the race to succeed him. Assemblymember Ian Calderon, the son of Charles Calderon and nephew of Ron and Tom, is not named in the affidavit.
The undercover agent in the film tax credit scheme used the name "Rocky Patel," perhaps a nod to the premium cigar company of the same name. Ron Calderon is known to like his stogies and gave cigars to the undercover agent for Christmas. Anthony York looks at how the agent created a persona.
Throughout the investigation, federal judges signed off on wiretap warrants to review Ron Calderon's private e-mail accounts and cellphone, and the undercover agent regularly wore a wire in meetings with Ron Calderon. The affidavit for a search warrant released yesterday was signed by the magistrate judget on May 2, 2013.
No charges have been filed, although you have to imagine that they are forthcoming. It's also unclear if the FBI is looking into anyone beyond the Calderon family. While incidental contact with other legislators (de Leon, Lara, Lieu, and Steinberg) are mentioned in the affidavit, they clearly aren't framed as allegations. However, remember that this is only the affidavit for a warrant to gather electronic and physical records, which could lead to allegations beyond that disclosed in the May filing.
It is an understatement to say that these will be a tense few months around the Capitol.
A big question still is who got the affidavit to Al Jazeera America and why did they choose the upstart cable and satellite channel?
Al Jazeera America's scoop has the Capitol press corps scrambling. Most believed that the FBI was interested in activities relating to the Central Basin Municipal Water District and, to a lesser extent, the health care clinics and workers comp. Nobody that I've talked to since June thought there was actually a sting underway.
FILING DAY: I mean it this time. Today is the FPPC filing day for state committees and lobbyist reports!
#SRIRACHACLYPSE: Sriracha spat: Judge to decide whether to halt sauce production [Frank Shyong @ LAT] - "A judge is set to decide Thursday whether to grant Irwindale's request to stop production of Sriracha sauce while the company tries to limit odors wafting into the neighborhood. The decision could have serious ramifications for next years' supplies of Huy Fong Food's three hot sauces: Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and the wildly popular Sriracha "rooster" sauce."
The MercNews guides us how to make our own if the world's best condiment is removed from our pho tables.
KINGS: The home opener, which ended with a jaw-clenching Kings win, had a playoff atmosphere. And, aside from having a full arena again, the strangest thing has to be seeing Shaq sitting on the sidelines cheering on his former nemeses.
YESTERDAY'S TRIVIA: Which members of the California congressional delegation succeeded the seats of their spouses?
YESTERDAY'S ANSWER(S): Currently, Lois Capps who succeeded Walter Capps in 1998 and Doris Matsui who succeeded Robert Matsui in 2005.
In the past, there were also Mary Bono who succeded Sonny Bono in 1998, Sala Burton who succeeded Phil Burton in 1983, Shirley Pettis who succeeded Jerry Pettis in 1975, Florence Kahn who succeeded Julius Kahn in 1925, and Mae Ella Nolan who succeded her husband John Nolan in 1923. Mae Ella Nolan was the first to succeed a spouse.
I don't think a male spouse has ever succeeded a female spouse, but it can't be too far behind, and perhaps even a same-sex succession.
Thanks to Alex Vassar for his great knowledge of California election history.
TODAY'S QUESTION: Can you name the "vampire" and two "ghosts" who have served in the CA Legislature? Bonus point for naming legislator who was involved in the production of Killer Tomatos.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Muffadal Ezzy and Gabe Sanchez.
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Tom Calderon Nonprofit Received $25,000 From Latino Caucus Panel
Patrick McGreevy @ latimes.com
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