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November 15, 2013
Editorial: Calderon's effort to play the victim is just pathetic

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(Nov. 15 -- By the Editorial Board)

Sen. Ron Calderon should stop trying to play the victim and take responsibility for the predicament in which he finds himself.

Politics ain't beanbag. So it comes as no surprise that through his attorney, Calderon is lashing out at his perceived political enemies as he faces the prospect of indictment in a Capitol corruption case.

The Montebello Democrat is trying to spread the blame to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Kevin de León, and perhaps other politicians to come. They are the least of his problems.

In papers filed in federal court in Sacramento, Calderon's lawyer, Mark Geragos of Los Angeles, said the FBI asked Calderon to wear a wire to record Steinberg and de León. Geragos said he filed the motion in part to respond to the decision on Tuesday by the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Steinberg, to strip Calderon of his committee posts.

"He (Steinberg) decided he was going to believe the uncorroborated hearsay allegations in an illegally leaked affidavit and he was going to violate the Constitution," Geragos told reporters. "That's fine. We are not going to stand here and take that."

Steinberg hardly violated the constitutional principle that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. Legislative leaders strip members of their committees for far less, such as challenging their leadership. Allegations against Calderon go beyond trivial political games.

The FBI affidavit, reported first by Al Jazeera America, alleges Calderon violated the public's trust by taking payments in exchange for trying to use his office to help a hospital owner and an undercover FBI agent posing as a studio executive.

Geragos' filing alleges that the FBI was interested in Steinberg's "financial activities with Michael Drobot, the former chief executive officer of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach."

Drobot had hired Calderon's brother, Tom, as a consultant; was a large campaign donor to Democrats; and sought legislative help so he could continue to rack up large workers' compensation payments for a particular kind of spinal surgery. As Steinberg notes, Drobot failed to get what he sought in a 2012 workers' comp overhaul. Calderon was one of only four senators who voted against the overhaul.

For the past year, Steinberg has been of counsel to a Woodland Hills law firm. On Friday, Steinberg told The Bee's editorial board that he learned Thursday the firm represented Drobot's adult son. Upon learning of the connection, Steinberg said, he severed his ties with the firm.

Steinberg has been part of the Sacramento scene since the 1980s when he was a labor lawyer. He has been in public office for more than 20 years, starting with his first City Council election in 1992, continuing through six years in the Assembly and, for the past seven years in the Senate.

The Bee's editorial board has sometimes disagreed with Steinberg, and we were particularly appalled when he attempted in 2009 to sneak up to $10 million in funding for a pet project, the California Unity Center, into a state water bond. But while he's hardly a saint, Steinberg is no Calderon. The latter has built a well-earned reputation for feasting at the expense of donors, for which he has been fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Calderon, wounded and isolated, knows his political future is bleak. But losing his status as Senate Insurance Committee chairman should not be his most pressing concern. Difficult though it may be, Calderon should dig deep, muster whatever dignity he has, and stop blaming others for his transgressions.

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