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THE NOONER for October 31, 2013

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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.

APPLAUSE: FAA changes safety rules so airline passengers can use electronic gadgets from gate-to-gate [AP @ WaPo]

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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  • The California Grocers Association is looking for a Director of Southern California Local Government Relations. Position is based in Burbank, responsible for local government advocacy, grassroots , limited media, member recruitment and retention. Competitive salary and benefits ($75,000+). Full job description and instructions available <HERE.
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What Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Did Right
George Skelton @
Obamacare is off to a better start in California because of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's early action on universal healthcare.

8 Washington debate about far more than 1 project
The 8 Washington project, subject of both Propositions B and C on the Nov. 5 ballot, "is a small development ... that in size and space isn't going to make a difference in housing affordability, open space or anything else," said Corey Cook, an associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco. The development would put 134 luxury condominiums on a 3.2-acre lot across from the Ferry Building that now holds a surface parking lot and a private swim and tennis club. [...] opponents, many of them neighbors upset with the prospect of high-rise construction in what is essentially their front yard, collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the development. A "yes" vote on either measure would clear the way for the project to be built as already approved by the board, while a "no" vote on both would eliminate the increased height limit, forcing the project to be revised. In a 30-second ad now running on local TV, Kate Looby of the Sierra Club, Supervisor David Chiu, Democratic activist Kelly Dwyer and former Mayor Art Agnos all complain that the proposed development will be twice the height of the long-dismantled Embarcadero Freeway, replace an athletic club with high-priced condos, and destroy the look and feel of an important part of the city. Torrent of TV adsBut supporters of the project, bankrolled with more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from developer Simon Snellgrove and his Pacific Waterfront Partners, have rolled out their own torrent of TV ads, featuring Mayor Ed Lee and former Mayor Gavin Newsom, arguing that the condo development "replaces the asphalt parking lot, massive fence and private club ... with neighborhood housing and a new waterfront park." Opponents, though, are delighted to make Tuesday's vote a decision on San Francisco's future, arguing that they're fighting to preserve an important part of the city's heritage for coming generations and protecting the waterfront from developers eager to line the Embarcadero with high-rises.

Loading Ammunition To Beat The Recalls Over Guns :: Fox&hounds
Let’s talk about the money. There are no contribution limits for either the proponents of the recall nor the officeholder who is subject of a recall effort. However, candidates running to replace the officeholder, if recalled, are subject to the $4,100 limit applicable to Senate and Assembly races between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014. As with all state races, there are no limits to the amounts political parties may contribute to candidates.

Tom Calderon Nonprofit Received $25,000 From Latino Caucus Panel
Patrick McGreevy @
The contribution is raising eyebrows around the Capitol. It was made by a political committee called “Yes We Can” to Californians for Diversity, a nonprofit group whose last tax filing, for 2011, listed Tom Calderon as president and said he received $2,500 in compensation from it that year.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Barbara Boxer are rivals no more
Evan Halper @
WASHINGTON -- Arnold Schwarzenegger met with a bunch of California Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday while on Capitol Hill to lobby for after-school programs. But it was notable that the one with whom he strode to the podium at a Capitol news conference was Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Pension crusader Chuck Reed reaches out to unions
Jon Ortiz @
In a Nixon-goes-to-China move, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed recently sent letters to the leaders of a dozen state employee unions and the California Teachers Association, asking them to meet with him to talk about pensions.

Schwarzenegger, on Capitol Hill, rallies for after-school programs
Evan Halper @
WASHINGTON &ndash; Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and the Hollywood actor and former California governor was uncharacteristically disciplined.

Nonprofit Run By Tom Calderon Got $25,000 From A Latino Caucus Pac
Laurel Rosenhall @
Early this year, a political fundraising committee connected to the Legislature's Latino Caucus gave $25,000 to a group run by Tom Calderon, the former assemblyman whose brother, Sen. Ron Calderon, had just concluded serving two years as the group's vice chairman.

State Says Internet Sales Tax Totals $263.4 Million
Dale Kasler @ and other Internet retailers collected $263.4 million in sales tax from California customers under a compromise law that took effect a little more than a year ago, state officials said this week.

Contrite White House Spurns Health Lawâ
While the secretary of health and human services apologized profusely for the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama traveled to Massachusetts to offer a forceful defense of the law.

Health Reforms Could Help California Prison Spending

Schwarzenegger pays visit to Capitol, and lawmakers behave
Curtis Tate @
With Congress behaving a bit like an unruly classroom lately, it seemed all too appropriate to call in the Kindergarten Cop.

Insurers, White House Argue Against Delaying Healthcare Deadline
Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons @
Delaying the sign-up deadline under the healthcare law could cost insurers and the insured, officials say.

SEIU Breaks Off Contract Talks With L.A. County
Seema Mehta @
The union representing 55,000 county workers accuses county officials of being unresponsive to demands, raising the possibility of a walkout.

Obama: Health care law critics 'grossly misleading'
Jennifer Epstein @
While acknowledging problems with the law, he lashed out at critics looking for reasons to complain.

Sacramento Home Prices Post Biggest Gains In Nation
Hudson Sangree @
Sacramento home prices rose by 26 percent this spring compared with the same period last year, topping a list of 380 markets surveyed by the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indexes, the firm announced Wednesday.

FBI Looking At Sen. Calderon Film Tax-credit Proposal
Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York @
Calderon pushed to extend tax breaks to productions of less than $1 million. He and family members received a total of $10,800 in campaign contributions from an independent producer who could have benefited from the change Calderon advocated.

Poll: Issa, Mccarthy, Mckeon Shouldn’t Fear Immigration Reform Backlash - Politics Blog
We've told you before about how GOP House Whip Kevin McCarthy is in a weird place on immigration reform. He's gotta play the loyal No. 3 guy in charge and not rock the "no pathway to citizenship" b...

S.F. parks night-closure vote delayed
Opponents see the proposal as a thinly veiled attack on the homeless who sleep in parks, while supporters say it's another tool for parks employees and police to fight vandals and metal thieves who strike the parks in the dead of night. Street science: A couple of interactive science exhibits from the folks at the Exploratorium that took root along a busy section of Market Street have opened, with most expected to stay there for two years. Just sit in one of two chairs facing each other across the busy Market Street sidewalk at Yerba Buena Lane and talk in a quiet voice. Whispering Dishes" was perhaps the most pronounced of the long-term streetscape exhibits, a partnership between the Exploratorium and the city to make science more publicly accessible in what has been dubbed a "living innovation zone. There are already concerns being raised about Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal to levy a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and other sugary beverages and use the money for health, nutrition and exercise programs - but it's not coming just from the beverage industry. Mar said he has some specific concerns about how Wiener is going about the process - specifically, whether there's enough of a coalition behind his proposal and whether the revenues will benefit the communities that are hardest hit by diabetes and other health problems associated with sugar-sweetened drinks.

U.S. threatens to take $3.52 billion from California schools
Sharon Noguchi @
Reinforcing its threat to punish California for dumping STAR tests next spring, the U.S. Department of Education said that ignoring federal law could cost the state $3.52 billion &#8212; and possibly much more.

President Obama Tries To Sell Obamacare: Can You Hear Me Now?
Cathleen Decker @
His comments come as Americans' views of healthcare have hardened into partisan camps