With four family members running as many as 10 overlapping campaign accounts open at any one time, California's Calderon family shows that bypassing state political contribution limits is as easy as opening up multiple accounts.
Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), whose Sacramento offices earlier this month were the target of an FBI search, has had five campaign accounts active at one point or another since 2011: one for a short-lived congressional bid, a 2010 Senate account that took money a year after he was elected and war chests for two 2014 races, for an Assembly seat and the state controller's race.
His brother Charles Calderon, the former Senate and Assembly majority leader who gave up his Assembly seat to his son, Ian Calderon, also had five committees, four open at once, including dual 2014 races for secretary of State and the state Board of Equalization.
Their brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, held two accounts, for his failed 2012 Assembly race and a 2014 campaign for the Senate.
Those accounts multiply the amount a politician can accept from a single source without overstepping the state's $3,900 contribution limit ($6,500 for statewide races).
The result is events such as the "Endless Summer Birthday Bash" for Ron Calderon held last August at a luxury beach resort in Dana Point. Contributors were invited to cut $3,900 checks to three of the senator's open campaigns. Among the money Ron Calderon declared that month was $3,900 from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which previously gave $5,000 to his statewide race, his campaign reports show.
Other multiple contributions came from Hawaiian Gardens Casino, which gave $3,900 to both of Calderon's 2014 races. Hilex Poly, a plastic bag manufacturer that wrote one of Ron Calderon's industry-friendly bag recycling bills, contributed to three of his accounts.
State law allows multiple accounts, said Gary Winuk, elections law enforcement chief for the state Fair Political Practices Commission. What is and isn't permitted, he said, sometimes depends on "what you're doing with the funds."