State Sen. Ron Calderon, whose Capitol offices were raided as part of an FBI undercover sting, says authorities demanded that he wear a hidden microphone in a purported corruption probe of Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg and a colleague.
But Calderon, a Montebello Democrat who was stripped of his committee assignments this week, noted in a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court that he refused the request, and that his offices were raided in June a few days later as payback. Calderon has said he received recording equipment from federal agents and returned it unused, getting a receipt.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento ordered federal authorities to respond to Calderon’s allegations.
The lawmaker said he was “approached on six separate occasions by high level agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and on two occasions by the Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California Doug Miller demanding that Senator Calderon participate in a sting operation against Senate President pro Tern Darrel Steinberg,” said the filing in U.S. District Court submitted by Calderon’s attorney, Mark Geragos.
“The FBI agents requested that Senator Calderon wear a wire and secretly record his conversations with Senator Steinberg and Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).
Steinberg and De Leon, rejecting allegations of impropriety, have said publicly that they were told by federal authorities that they were not targets of the undercover investigation.
“Make no mistake: the assertions made in certain conversations described in this affidavit bear zero resemblance to reality and are a universe apart from how the Legislature that we know and honor every day conducts the people’s business,” Steinberg said in a written statement released by his office.
The probe came to light after Al Jazeera America, a cable television network, recently disclosed the contents of a leaked 124-page FBI affidavit. The document detailed a lengthy undercover investigation that included Calderon accepting some $88,000 in bribes for helping a bogus film executive — actually an FBI undercover agent — get tax breaks for his company, among other favors.
Steinberg and de Leon have rejected any allegations of impropriety, noting that they have received letters from federal authorities that they are not targets of the investigation.
Calderon has denied any wrongdoing and federal officials say they are currently investigating the source of the leak.
To Calderon, however, there is no mystery about the leak: He contends it was orchestrated by federal prosecutors to smear him.
“The AUSA-CDC (Assistant U.S. attorney — Central District of California) has a history of having confidential and sealed documents under the office’s control leaked to the press,” Calderon’s filing notes. “Specifically, the pattern of illegal leaks coming from the office of AUSA Doug Miller is troubling, with the media sensationalism created by those leaks bearing no relation to the ultimate facts and law. Here, it is clear that the FBI and/or AUSA-CDC engaged in a campaign to smear the reputation of Senator Calderon and convict him in the press and public before a grand jury was assembled and while it was hearing evidence.”
Calderon has not been charged in the investigation, which is continuing. His nephew, Ian, currently serves in the Legislature and two others — Tom and Chuck — have both served as state lawmakers.
Earlier in the week, Calderon was removed from his committee assignments, including the chairmanship of the Senate Insurance Committee, a major policy panel with jurisdiction over a multibillion-dollar industry.
Steinberg asked the five-member Senate Rules Committee – the powerful housekeeping panel in the upper house that Steinberg chairs — to temporarily take the action, following the disclosure of the first FBI affidavit.
“I do not make this request lightly,” Steinberg told the committee. He said the senator’s removal was a well-recognized public policy, akin to removing any officer from duty in light of allegations.
“Removing me from my committee assignments sends a risky and unsuitable message regarding our fundamental constitutional rights and the Presumption of Innocence,” Calderon said in a statement after the committee’s unanimous decision.
The committee also approved the disbandment of Calderon’s Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industry. The FBI undercover investigation largely hinged on the phony film executive making payments to Calderon in exchange for tax-credit legislation.
Calderon also has served the banking, governmental organization and environmental quality committees.
No charges have been filed against Calderon, whose Capitol offices were raided by FBI agents as part of an FBI probe that apparently spanned several years – an investigation that early on apparently included his brother.
Ed’s Note: Updates throughout to reflect judge’s decision. Corrects reference to Ian as nephew in 12th graf