Christmas presents don't typically show up on California state disclosure forms, but they do when brothers exchange gifts using campaign funds. Such is the case with Montebello Sen. Ron Calderon, who is the subject of an FBI investigation, and his brother Charles Calderon, a former state legislator.
On Christmas Day in 2010, Charles Calderon's campaign account for his Assembly run that year gave Ron Calderon a $420 "holiday gift," according to his statement of economic interests. The $420 price tag happens to have been the state's limit on gifts to legislators that year. This year, it is $440.
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Charles Calderon's campaign for the Assembly gave Ron Calderon a $400 "holiday gift card." That gift came three days after Ron Calderon's Senate campaign account gave then Assemblyman Charles Calderon a $182.70 pair of shoes for a golf event.
State campaign finance laws exempt gifts among family members from having to be reported by state lawmakers on annual disclosure forms. That is, unless campaign funds are used.
"We looked into the gifts between the two brothers," said Gary Winuk, the enforcement division chief of the Fair Political Practices Commission. "Their claim was that the gift was to improve legislative relations between brothers, which meets the technical legal standard."
The holiday gifts aren't the only way the Calderons have shared campaign funds with family members. Ron Calderon used campaign funds to pay another brother, Tom Calderon, and his consulting business a total of $157,000. Tom Calderon, a former Assembly member, paid his son, Cameron Calderon, $22,100 for campaign work out of campaign funds for his unsuccessful Assembly run last year, which he lost to Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.
Ron Calderon was one of 38 lawmakers the FPPC questioned in 2010 for not properly reporting gifts. His case involved a $1,400 weekend he and his wife spent at the Pebble Beach golf resort at an event hosted by the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies.
Ron Calderon's family and financial connections have received considerable attention since last week, when the FBI searched his Capitol offices on Tuesday. Tom Calderon was contacted that same day by the FBI, according to the former assemblyman's attorney, Shepard Kopp.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said she could not comment on who has been interviewed or any other aspects of the FBI investigation.
PHOTO: A jogger passes the Christmas tree at the California state Capitol building in this 2012 file photo. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo