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After Ron Calderon Indictment, the Democratic Party Won't Return Money From Michael Drobot

Ron Calderon and his wife, Ana, in happier times
Ron Calderon and his wife, Ana, in happier times
Calderon Senate office

There are two dollar figures to keep in mind when thinking about the Ron Calderon scandal. The first is $100,000, which is the amount of bribe money that Sen. Calderon is alleged to have taken. The second is $500 million, which is the amount of money that Michael Drobot has already admitted he took in a workers' compensation fraud scheme.

Obviously both aspects of this are serious. But the magnitude of Drobot's offense dwarfs Calderon's. Somebody's getting rich here, and it isn't Ron Calderon.

But while Capitol lawmakers have rushed to shun Calderon, no one is hurrying to return money they received over the years from Drobot.

Drobot's workers' compensation fraud scheme relied on a loophole in state law called the "spinal pass-through." Under this loophole, which was well known to policy-makers at least since 2003, Drobot was able to bill insurers twice for the same equipment used in spinal surgeries at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach. The loophole was finally closed last year, but not before Drobot made off with hundreds of millions of dollars.

To keep this loophole open as long as possible, Drobot has admitted to bribing Sen. Calderon with dinners, plane flights, golf trips and a summer job for Calderon's son.

But it would have been stupid to rely solely on Sen. Calderon. According to the Sacramento Bee, Drobot gave $1.3 million in political contributions since 2000, almost all of it to Democrats.

The California Democratic Party received $95,000 from Drobot's company - $50,000 in 2011 and $45,000 in 2002. Now that Drobot has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and paying kickbacks to doctors, will the Democratic Party return that money?

Uh, no.

"Contributions raised in past election cycles are spent during those respective election cycles," said party spokesman Tenoch Flores. "We can't return money we no longer have."

But don't worry too much about the Democratic Party - they have $11.2 million in cash in the bank. If they wanted to return Drobot's checks, they could.


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