Experts Expound

Experts Expound

“The FBI raided the Capitol and agents apparently are looking at Ron and Tom Calderon, as well as an LA-area water district’s contracting practices. Is this developing scandal limited in scope or is it the tip of an iceberg in Sacramento?  Thoughts about political implications?”

Follow the money.

The business of the politically-charged Central Water Basin District has been a tangled web for at least a couple of decades. And note that Tom Calderon is running for brother Ron’s Senate seat against former Assembly Member and Latino Caucus Chair Tony Mendoza, who was unceremoniously dumped as Latino Caucus Chair before he termed out of the Assembly. Who knows where this thing goes!

This issue is likely more isolated to contracts from a local agency – something the Feds are used to investigating and successfully prosecuting. This is not any larger pay-to-play or political corruption case involving legislators in their Sacramento duties, like Shrimpgate.  Nor is it some kind of culture changing prosecution for political campaign violations or money-laundering.  Note that there has never been a prosecution for violations of state independent expenditure laws – and that is the fastest growing area of potential corruption.

There has been scuttlebutt for years about the relationship between the Calderons and the water district, and it is a situation tailor-made for corruption when one brother is a well-paid consultant to the district, and another is a state senator who is carrying, um, water for the district in the Legislature. Do these guys have no sense of political optics?

There have been no allegations, never mind convictions. Let’s not rush to judgment.

The actions by the FRI removed the shield of invincibility that has been around the Capitol for the last decade or so,  Lines had been blurring and the FPPC steeping over the last few years on their reforms should have been a signal of things to come.  Whether it’s the tip of the iceberg or a scandal brewing in Sacramento has a lot of people seconding phone calls, meetings and requests.  Regardless of the impact on the Senator or his brother, what the FBI action did was reminder that rules apply to all and that no one in untouchable regardless of the years that pass between events.

This is a political corruption scandal involving a political dynasty in LA.  If it is the tip, it will not be confined to Sacramento.  Fortunately for Dems this happened the first part of an odd-numbered year, otherwise the immediate fallout would extend beyond the other Calderon in the other house.

This is not just a Sacramento scandal, it is an L.A. scandal in an area of L.A. county that has had more than its share of corruption over the years. It will take an intelligent, angry, engaged electorate to ultimately clean it up, and good luck with that.

Voters care about corruption in government.  Senator Calderon could be the second sitting Senate Democrat to face criminal charges.  Dems shouldn’t lose site of the fact that corruption and ethics in government were cited by more voters than any other issue as extremely important in ‘06 when the GOP lost control of the House.  Dems won’t lose control here, but they can sure reverse the gains they made in November.

Republicans hope the scandal spreads more broadly to Democrats, which is something their absolute power has yet to produce.

This will not change business as usual in this part of California.

The business of the politically-charged Central Water Basin District has been a tangled web for at least a couple of decades. And note that Tom Calderon is running for brother Ron’s Senate seat against former Assembly Member and Latino Caucus Chair Tony Mendoza, who was unceremoniously dumped as Latino Caucus Chair before he termed out of the Assembly. Who knows where this thing goes!

This issue is likely more isolated to contracts from a local agency – something the Feds are used to investigating and successfully prosecuting. This is not any larger pay-to-play or political corruption case involving legislators in their Sacramento duties, like Shrimpgate.  Nor is it some kind of culture changing prosecution for political campaign violations or money-laundering.  Note that there has never been a prosecution for violations of state independent expenditure laws – and that is the fastest growing area of potential corruption.

Every time I get to the point where I want to get rid of term limits, something like this happens. Too many Calderons have been around too long, and they’ve forgotten that the Legislature isn’t a family fiefdom.

This story could go anywhere, but remember all that miserable coverage on Don Perata? And then he wound up clean – much to the embarrassment of many in the media.

— Ed’s Note: Those from whom we sought opinions include Andrew Acosta, Elizabeth Ashford, Hector Barajas, A.G. Block, Mark Bogetich, Barry Brokaw, Richard Costigan, Dale Debber, Peter DeMarco, Mike Donovan, Jim Evans, Kathy Fairbanks, Jeff Fuller, Rex Frazier, Tom Gede, Ken Gibson, Evan Goldberg, Deborah Gonzalez, Sandy Harrison, Bob Hertzberg, Gale Kaufman, Jason Kinney, Dave Lesher, Elizabeth Leslie, Chris Lehane, Greg Lucas, Donna Lucas, Mike Madrid, Aaron McLear, Nicole Mahrt, Steve Maviglio,  Adam Mendelsohn, Jacob Mejia, Beth Miller, Paul Mitchell , Barbara O’Connor, Kassy Perry, Jack Pitney, Matt Rexroad, Roger Salazar, Dan Schnur, Will Shuck, Ray Sotero, Garry South, Kevin Spillane, Robin Swanson, Ben Tulchin, Angie Wei, Scott Wetch. 


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