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FPPC not investigating De León

The state Fair Political Practices Commission says it is not investigating Sen. Kevin de  León in connection with a $25,000 donation to a nonprofit group headed by the brother of Sen. Ron Calderon, a figure targeted in an FBI undercover investigation.

The FPPC, which enforces California’s campaign finance laws, said it will focus instead on the money trail surrounding the donation, a type of transaction called a “behested payment” because it represents funds to a charity or nonprofit solicited by a lawmaker on the receiver’s behalf.

The funds allegedly were part of an effort to resolve a caucus leadership fight.

“We are investigating whether or not the payment was behested and, if so, whether or not the person who behested it should have disclosed it,” said FPPC spokesperson Richard Hertz.

Sen. Kevin de León

Sen. Kevin de León

Earlier this month, de León,  a Los Angeles Democrat and a contender for the Senate’s top leadership post, had received a letter from the FPPC saying it may investigate his role in directing funds from a political action committee of the Latino Legislative Caucus to a nonprofit called Californians for Diversity, which is headed by Tom, a former lawmaker and brother of Ron. The political action committee, called Yes We Can, is controlled by the caucus.

“I had nothing to do with the contribution and am pleased that after reviewing the evidence the FPPC quickly closed this matter,” De Leon said in a statement released by his office.

The funds allegedly were part of an effort to resolve a caucus leadership fight.

The FPPC’s letter stemmed from allegations contained in a 124-page FBI affidavit filed by an undercover agent detailing the FBI’s investigation into the activities of  Ron Calderon and his alleged efforts to win tax breaks for the film industry, including at least $60,000 in bribes. The affidavit, which was disclosed by the television network Al Jazeera America in October, notes that de León helped arrange the contribution.  De León has denied any wrongdoing and said he played no role in arranging the contribution.

In a letter to de León, the FPPC’s enforcement chief, Gary Winuk, said that “based on our review of current evidence and the information you provided, the FPPC will not initiate an investigation with you as respondent…”

No charges have been filed and the investigation into Calderon’s activities is continuing.

This week, the FPPC said it was not examining de León but was concentrating on the donation.

In a letter to de León, the FPPC’s enforcement chief, Gary Winuk, said that “based on our review of current evidence and the information you provided, the FPPC will not initiate an investigation with you as respondent…” Winuk said in a separate letter to the political action committee that it was launching a probe of the donation to Californians for Diversity to see if it violated the reporting requirements for behested payments, which by law are required to be disclosed.

Sen. Ron Calderon

Sen. Ron Calderon

After the FBI affidavit was disclosed,  Sen. Calderon accused federal authorities of illegally leaking the document in order to smear him. In a complaint filed in federal court, he also said federal agents had asked him to secretly record conversations with de León and the Senate leader. Calderon said he refused.

FBI agents raided Calderon’s Capitol offices in June as part of an investigation into Calderon’s activities that included his efforts on behalf of a film industry executive — actually, an FBI undercover agent — to secure tax credits favorable to the executive’s company.

 


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