Senate leader Darrell Steinberg today rejected a fellow senator's claim that he is the target of an FBI corruption investigation and said allegations in Sen. Ron Calderon's most recent court filing are "beyond the pale."
"I am not a target of this investigation, I am not a subject of this investigation," Steinberg said in a talk with reporters outside the Capitol.
Calderon, a Democrat from Montebello, filed a motion late Wednesday asking the federal court to hold the FBI and US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles in contempt for leaking an affidavit that alleges he accepted $88,000 in bribes from an undercover agent and a Long Beach hospital executive.
In the filing, Calderon says the FBI asked him to wear a wire and secretly record conversations with Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
"The FBI was specifically interested in Senator Steinberg's financial activities with Michael Drobot, the former Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach," the filing in federal court says.
Steinberg said today that he has "no relationship with Michael Drobot," but that the former hospital executive had attended Senate Democrat fundraising events. Campaign finance reports show that Drobot and his various companies have given more than $1.3 million in campaign contributions since 2000, nearly all of it to Democrats and the Democratic Party.
Steinberg also said that a few years ago he met with Drobot and Calderon's brother, Tom Calderon, who was a consultant for Pacific Hospital of Long Beach. The hospital specializes in doing spinal surgery on patients being treated through the state's workers compensation system. How much hospitals are paid for performing those surgeries has been a significant source of turmoil in the Legislature, with dueling bills being introduced last year.
"When it came to what (Drobot) said that he wanted in terms of changes in the workers comp system, everything that I've done, everything that I did, was exactly the opposite," Steinberg said.
"I spoke to him on one occasion, heard him out, and directly rejected his request and did just the opposite."
At the end of last year's legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 863 by de Leon, which removes a double payment hospitals had been receiving for performing spinal implants on workers comp patients. Prosecutors recently sent de Leon's lawyer a letter saying he is a witness, not a target, of their investigation "based on the information we have obtained to date."
De Leon issued a statement this afternoon: "The U.S. Attorney's office asked me to assist their investigation as a witness and I have done so per the letter released from the U.S. Attorney's office, which also made clear that I am neither a subject or target of the investigation. There is nothing more important (than) protecting the integrity of our governing processes."
The workers compensation legislation is an area of interest to the FBI, according to the FBI's sealed affidavit made public last month by Al Jazeera America. The document alleges that Calderon took $28,000 in bribes from Drobot in exchange for efforts to make workers compensation legislation more favorable to Drobot's business. The FBI searched Pacific Hospital of Long Beach in April, and raided Calderon's Capitol offices in June.
PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, with colleagues Kevin de Leon, right, and Sen. Ron Calderon, center, on the last day of the legislative session in September 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer
Watch excerpts from Steinberg's talk today with the press: