Calderon indictment could affect other races, supermajority

SACRAMENTO -- The indictments against state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon and former Assemblyman Tom Calderon on Friday initially drew a muted response from colleagues in the Legislature who huddled behind closed doors to decide what to do.

The Senate Democratic Caucus scheduled an emergency meeting by teleconference Friday afternoon, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg declined comment until he had a chance to meet with his members.

More than two hours after the indictments, the only public comment had come from Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), a leading critic of the Capitol culture.

 “Today’s action by the US Attorney casts a shadow of corruption and greed over our government and all who serve as elected officials,” Garcia said.

 Sen. Calderon, 56, was charged Friday with accepting $100,000 in bribes, as well as plane trips, gourmet dinners and trips to golf resorts, in exchange for action on legislation involving film  tax credits and workers' compensation.

Tom Calderon, 59, was charged with being part of a money laundering conspiracy involving his brother.

The indictments could also have fallout for the political aspirations of other family members.

Their brother, former Sen. Charles Calderon is a candidate this year for L.A. County Superior Court judge. He has distanced himself from his siblings in recent months. Charles' son, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, is running for reelection to the Assembly in June.

“It's bound to claim casualties,” said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A., of the charges. “Chuck is the dean. He was the first elected, he goes way back, and he’s bound to be affected by this.”

The indictments also could affect the power Democrats have in the Senate.

Coming a month after Sen. Roderick Wright was found guilty of eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud, if Sen. Calderon is convicted it could jeopardize the Democratic supermajority in the Senate. If both are forced out of office, Democrats would have 26 members, one short of a two-thirds majority.

Another question is whether the case will spark an effort to clean up the Legislature.

“The problem is there is a culture of lobbyists and  special interests that are constantly wining and dining legislators and looking for opportunities to push the envelope,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. “The bigger issue really has to do with whether leadership will have the guts to take on serious reform.”


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