Update: Top Sacramento officials deny earlier official reports that the FBI took files from the Latino Caucus offices. See at bottom. First posted at 11:53 a.m.
The FBI is investigating California state Sen. Ron Calderon, a Los Angeles-area legislator exposed by L.A. Weekly for putting his own name on laws ghostwritten by the very special interest groups who benefited from the laws. Calderon has lawyered up with celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.
Ghostwriting laws is illegal in Congress. But the unsavory practice is legal in the legislature and dismissed as normal by the Sacramento press corps, especially the L.A. Times. The public was unaware of the practice until "sponsored legislation" was unmasked in a San Jose Mercury News probe, "How Our Laws in California Are Really Made." After that, the Weekly reported that three L.A. legislators -- Ron Calderon, brother Charles Calderon and Felipe Fuentes -- (just elected to the L.A. City Council after the Times endorsed Fuentes) sank to new lows putting their names on laws they didn't write. Yesterday, the FBI took Ron Calderon's files. Connected to ghostwriting? Consider:
After L.A. Weekly's and Mercury News reporter Karen de Sa's investigations, the public asked if California politicians were literally selling their names -- slapping them on laws written by Big Pharma, corporations, massive unions and even environmentalists who love writing their very own laws.
Maybe the FBI decided to dig into the public's question about selling laws in California. Or maybe Calderon has a different alleged problem. Geragos insists the FBI "has no case."
The Sacramento Bee broke the story 17 hours ago that the FBI raided Ron Calderon's office, as well as the office of the very powerful "Latino Caucus."
The Bee reported last night:
"This afternoon, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation served search warrants in the State Capitol at the office of Senator Ron Calderon and in the Legislative Office Building at the Latino Legislative Caucus office," said Tony Beard, the Senate's chief sergeant at arms, in a statement to the media.
"Those warrants are sealed by order of the Federal Court; therefore we have no further information," he said. "The Senate has and will continue to fully cooperate with the agents in this matter.
The FBI confirmed federal search warrants were issued in Sacramento.
The "Latino Caucus" mentioned by the Bee is a large body in the legislature made up of every Democrat who is Latino -- or is deemed to be close enough.
More importantly, the Latino Caucus, whose chairman is Ricardo Lara, and includes as a member
led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's first cousin -- Assembly Speaker John Perez -- is the power center. The Latino Caucus pushes through most of the key laws and budget decisions in California.
And the Latino Caucus, like every "caucus" in dysfunctional Sacramento, kowtows to rich special interest groups who back their campaigns for office, whether it's genuflecting to the bullying of Big Tobacco or to the anti-reform, adults-first California Teachers Association, feared even by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Both Jerry Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have signed scores of ghostwritten bills into law. Sacramento-based journalists have even defended their failure to write about the obvious pitfalls of "sponsored" legislation.
However, the nature of the FBI probe is unknown. It could be about an entirely different matter.
You can almost smell them.
The Sacramento Bee reports that officials for powerful California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, who yesterday said federal search warrants were issued for Ron Calderon's office as well as the Latino Caucus office across the street at 1020 N Street in Sacramento, now say Steinberg's information was incorrect. The Bee reports:
.. Beard said that was in error, and the N street office searched by the FBI is used only by Calderon.
A press statement from Latino Caucus leaders state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) confirms that agents did not raid the Caucus office, known as Room 511:
"Yesterday, the Sergeant at Arms informed us that the FBI had served warrants in the Capitol. However, despite media reports to the contrary, those warrants DID NOT include searches of the offices of the Latino Legislative Caucus (Room 511).
The nature of the warrants is under seal, and thus far no information on the affidavit in support of the warrants has been disclosed.
In any event, the Latino Legislative Caucus stands ready to assist the Justice Department in whatever way it can to bring this matter to a speedy resolution."
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For further reading:
Karen de Sa's investigation in the Mercury News published in 2010, "How Our Laws in California Are Really Made." It is an extensive series with a database you can use to check your own local legislator's behavior.