Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 1, 2013
Calls begin for Sen. Ron Calderon to resign his seat

cristina_garcia.jpgA freshman lawmaker who rose through the ranks as an anti-corruption crusader has called on besieged Sen. Ron Calderon to resign his seat over allegations that he took bribes in exchange for political favors.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, said she couldn't keep her silence after the affidavit documenting the transgressions surfaced Wednesday.

"It is with mixed feelings, but with strong conviction that today I ask Senator Calderon to step down from his office to allow this black cloud to be removed from over the Capitol and over the State of California," Garcia said in a statement late Friday.

"I fully realize that we must respect the presumed innocence of Senator Calderon, but the distraction caused by this case, in my own backyard, and its long-term implications are detrimental to the fabric of government and to the citizens that the Senator represents."

Garcia, who lives in Calderon's 30th Senate District, became an oft-quoted figure during the municipal scandals in the southeastern Los Angeles city of Bell. Her organization, the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, helped organize forums in the small community and signature-gathering efforts to recall council members after it was revealed that city officials paid themselves massive salaries while raising taxes.

Calderon, D-Montebello, is accused of taking more than $60,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents during an extensive probe into his conduct as a legislator. No charges have been filed.

"I hope Senator Calderon will look within himself and make the proper decision," Garcia said.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens. Photo courtesy of Garcia's office.

November 1, 2013
Jerry Brown cites multiple 'screw-ups' in EDD computer problem

brownjanbudget.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday it's a "good question" whether the contractor managing a major computer system upgrade that delayed jobless benefits for thousands of Californians should be given more state work.

"That's a good question," Brown said of Deloitte Consulting after an event in Oakland. "We're looking into that."

Brown told reporters "it seems like there's been multiple screw-ups" and that his administration is seeking to fix them and install "sustainable leadership" within the Employment Development Department.

He did not elaborate.

A problem converting old unemployment claims into the state's new processing system over the Labor Day weekend delayed jobless benefits for nearly 150,000 Californians.

Deloitte Federal Political Action Committee gave $17,000 to Brown's re-election committee on Sept. 3, just after the Labor Day weekend. The Democratic governor said the donation was "news to me."

"I first learned about this program when I read about it in the paper," Brown said. "I don't think you'll find a more independent person in the governor's office when it comes to bills, when it comes to decisions. So trying to tie contributions and actions, I think it's worth, you know, a little bit of your time, but not much."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

November 1, 2013
Jerry Brown keeps mostly mum on Calderon investigation

brownlee.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown kept mostly mum on the bribery scandal engulfing the Capitol on Friday, declining to opine on an FBI investigation or to say if he believes embattled state Sen. Ron Calderon should step down.

"I don't jump into investigations," the Democratic governor said after an event in Oakland.

Brown's remarks were his first since the cable news network Al Jazeera America on Tuesday published a 124-page affidavit alleging that Calderon, D-Montebello, accepted about $88,000 in bribes from a Southern California hospital executive. and an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio owner.

No charges have been filed against Calderon.

According to the affidavit, Calderon was seeking to change California's tax credit program for filmmakers so that smaller productions could qualify for the program, and he said Brown had asked him to hold off on the legislation until after voters decided Proposition 30, Brown's ballot initiative last year to raise taxes. After the legislation passed, according to the affidavit, Calderon told the undercover agent "the only agreement they had with Governor Brown was not to hold any hearings until after the election, so now they could do whatever they wanted."

Asked about the veracity of the claim, Brown said, "First I ever heard of it."

"I have hundreds of conversations, but of course usually with things that cost money I'm slowing them down whenever I can, but I can't respond to that particular one. But I'll be glad to look back and see what it is, but I don't have that many conversations with legislators, and I certainly didn't have too many with that particular legislator."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee talk at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been changed to remove a reference to behested payments by Brown to the Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation. State records that reported the bested payments were wrong, the state Fair Political Practices Commission said.

November 1, 2013
FBI has been watching the Calderons for years

TomAndRonCalderon.jpgThe elaborate FBI sting involving an undercover agent posing as a film studio owner who offered bribes to state Sen. Ron Calderon was not the first time the agency investigated the Montebello Democrat.

It was all the way back in 2007 that the FBI began looking into Calderon and his brothers, former assemblymen Tom Calderon and Charles Calderon, according to the affidavit made public this week by cable news network Al Jazeera America. The probe by a Los Angeles-based agent was based on information from the Fair Political Practices Commission and other sources, the affidavit says.

In part, the FBI was looking at $1 million payment Tom Calderon received after leaving the Assembly from Michael Drobot, who was then CEO of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach and had hired him as a consultant.

"It was suspected that this exceptionally large and unusual payment might evidence that Thomas Calderon was using his brothers' political influence to favor Drobot in return for monetary compensation, that is, a bribe," the affidavit says.

In 2008, the agent's investigation was added to an undercover investigation under way at the FBI's Sacramento field office, the document says, which involved two undercover agents posing as venture capitalists.

"The undercover FBI agents separately told Ronald Calderon and Thomas Calderon that they were interested in having legislation introduced in the California Senate that would be financially beneficial to their prospective investments," the affidavit says.

"Neither Ronald Calderon nor Thomas Calderon solicited or accepted a bribe in connection with their legislation."

The agent who posed as an LA film studio owner entered the picture some years later, after the FBI's Los Angeles branch launched an undercover investigation of two other public officials - not the Calderon brothers - in October 2011, the document says. It was in the course of that investigation that the fake studio owner met Ron Calderon.

A few months later, the affidavit says, the Los Angeles branch of the FBI added Ron Calderon as a subject of its undercover operation, and in December 2012 the Sacramento branch closed its investigation.

PHOTO: California State Sen. Ron Calderon, left, talks with California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez , while former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon talks with a friend at a memorial service for Tom's wife Marcella Calderon on January 14, 2012. The Los Angeles Times/Genaro Molina

November 1, 2013
Alameda Alliance for Health removed from California exchange


One of the dozen health plans offering coverage through the state insurance marketplace was removed until further notice, officials said Friday.

Alameda Alliance for Health was nixed from the choice of Covered California offerings after failing to secure state approval to sell coverage in the commercial market.

"Alameda Alliance has a solid provider network and is a valuable asset to the community," Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said in a written statement. "We look forward to the company getting its commercial license, so we can welcome its plans back to the exchange."

Covered California officials said they were told by the Department of Managed Health Care that the company's application to modify its license to sell commercially has not been approved, a requirement for plans in the state exchange where coverage starts Jan. 1.

Officials said the decision does not affect Alameda Alliance's license as a Medi-Cal provider. Exchange officials said they would retain their contract with Alameda Alliance and will continue to work with the state and company to fulfill the license requirements.

Covered California notified Alameda Alliance in mid-October that a state-approved license was needed to sell health coverage and set an Oct. 31 deadline for approval. The exchange notified prospective customers from Alameda County that they need to select a new plan from Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente, with service at nine area hospitals.

PHOTO: Executive Director of Covered California Peter V. Lee speaks to members of the press during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

November 1, 2013
Special circumstance cited in Ron Calderon removal from film board


Lawmakers took an extraordinary step to remove embattled Sen. Ron Calderon from the California Film Commission, a post he was entitled to hold until at least the end of his term.

On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced that the Senate Rules Committee, which he leads, had removed Calderon from the commission effective immediately. But the law appears to allow the Montebello Democrat to remain on the panel through the end of 2014.

A Steinberg spokesman cited a provision of the law stating that state lawmakers appointed to the commission can participate "to the extent that participation is not incompatible with his or her position as a Member of the Legislature."

"These are not actions taken lightly," spokesman Rhys Williams said. "We reviewed the relevant rules, obtained the advice of the Legislative Counsel, and the Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously (5-0) to take the action."

Calderon is at the center of a federal probe into allegations that he accepted more than $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio owner. Even the the appearance of impropriety dictates that Calderon be removed from the film commission, said Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Film Commission Director Amy Lemisch said she considered the Senate's action final.

"I've notified the other members of the board that (Calderon) was removed," she said.

PHOTO: Senator Ron Calderon speaks to the media outside Senate chambers on Monday June 10, 2013, at the State Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

November 1, 2013
Timeline: Key events in the FBI's Calderon family investigation

Here are some key points in the FBI's ongoing investigation of the Calderon family. Much of the information is drawn from a FBI affidavit -- sealed under court order but obtained by Al Jazeera America -- that makes the case for a search warrant for Sen. Ron Calderon's offices.

November 1, 2013
AM Alert: The march on moolah

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Calderon-FBI.jpgIn a bit of unintentionally good timing, a group that wants to get money out of politics will gather at the Capitol to stage a rally this weekend.

The Ron Calderon bribery scandal has lent symbolic fuel to the nascent March Against Corruption, which organizers says will "raise awareness about the corrupting influence of money and special interests in governance and public-policy making."

Event organizer Shane McLoud, a former deputy for two Los Angeles County supervisors, has been whipping up interest on Facebook for the protest on on the Capitol's West Steps from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Similar marches are scheduled worldwide, according to, from the Portlands in Oregon and Maine to Lagos, Nigeria, and London.

Besides the Capitol, California marches are set for Los Angeles, Redding, San Diego, San Francisco and Stockton.

SPEAKING OF POLITICAL CASH: Halloween was the deadline for political committees and lobbyists to file their third-quarter financial reports. Pols and journalists, campaign consultants, lobbyists and everyone else in the political-junkie class will be hitting the Secretary of State's website today to get a read on who's giving and who's getting as we roll into the 2014 campaign season.

INSIDE THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY: Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is hosting the second annual Insurance Diversity Policy Summit this morning. His office says Jones will release results of a first-in-the-nation survey of supplier diversity in the insurance industry during the event and panels will discuss the topic. The event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 11:45 a.m. in the Department of Health Care Services auditorium at 1500 Capitol Ave.. in Sacramento.

GRAB A SHOVEL: Gov. Jerry Brown will be in his hometown this afternoon for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center on the site of the former Oakland Army Base. The $1.2 billion project, located next to the city's bustling port, is envisioned as a hub for transporting cargo in and out of Oakland more efficiently. The project will also reduce truck traffic, emissions and wear-and-tear on the state's roads and highways. Starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Maritime and Ukraine streets. Credentialed media only.

PHOTO: State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, grimaces as a reporter tries to ask him a question at the end of his brief news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday June 10, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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