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State Senator May Be Stripped Of Committee Assignments

State Senator May Be Stripped Of Committee Assignments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Lawmakers are meeting Tuesday to consider stripping committee assignments from a state senator targeted in a long-running FBI investigation.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has asked the Rules Committee he chairs to remove Sen. Ron Calderon from the Insurance Committee that Calderon leads and four other committees to which he's assigned. The Rules Committee already has taken the Montebello Democrat off the state film commission.

The moves come after Al Jazeera America reported it had obtained a sealed FBI affidavit alleging Calderon accepted $88,000 in return for his help promoting bills. No charges have been filed and Calderon denies wrongdoing.

Though nothing has been proven, Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement that removing Calderon from committee assignments is appropriate because the claims "are serious enough to cloud any interactions the Senator might have with colleagues, advocates, and the public on issues within his jurisdiction."

No one in the Senate has called on Calderon to resign, though Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, whose district includes Calderon's hometown, has asked him to step down as a way to remove the "black cloud" over the Capitol.

Mario Beltran, a spokesman for Calderon, said the senator has not discussed resigning. Neither Calderon nor his staff will attend Tuesday's committee meeting, Beltran said.

Calderon has not directly addressed the allegations he accepted money but issued a statement after Garcia called on him to quit. He said it is outrageous for an elected official "to trample on the Constitution by making a mockery of the presumption of innocence."

Calderon's lawyer, Mark Geragos, has said the contents of the affidavit are "demonstrably false" and that whoever leaked the document committed a crime.

The affidavit includes allegations that Calderon took $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as the owner of a Los Angeles movie company in return for the senator's promotion of a bill expanding tax credits for the film industry. It also alleges that Calderon accepted $28,000 from a Long Beach hospital executive to promote favorable legislation.

The document includes an alleged conversation between Calderon and the agent in which the senator says his relationship with Steinberg was responsible for the Senate leader supporting the effort to lower the threshold for film industry tax credits. The bill ultimately failed.

The affidavit does not accuse Steinberg of any wrongdoing.

The affidavit was used to obtain a search warrant for Calderon's two Sacramento offices in June. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said her agency is investigating how the affidavit was obtained by Al Jazeera America despite being under seal.

U.S. Justice Department officials in Los Angeles, where the case is being investigated, and Sacramento, where the court documents are being filed, have not confirmed publicly that the affidavit is part of their case. But a government official with direct knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity confirmed to The Associated Press that the affidavit was "one of our documents."

It shows that federal authorities have been investigating Calderon and his brother Tom, a former assemblyman who now works as a lobbyist, since 2007. The Calderons are part of a potent Southern California political family that has had a member in the Legislature for 30 years.

Another brother, Charles, served in the Senate and Assembly. Charles' son, Ian, is an assemblyman.

Also Tuesday, the Rules Committee will consider eliminating the Senate Select Committee on California's Film and Television Industry. Calderon was chairman of the select committee, but it has not met since it was created earlier this year.

The five-member Rules Committee includes Steinberg, two fellow Democrats and two Republicans. It has final say on all committee assignments.

 

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