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State Sen. Ronald Calderon, a Southern California Democrat under investigation by the FBI, was removed from his committee assignments in Sacramento after an investigation by Al Jazeera.
In an exclusive report on Oct. 30, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit detailed how the FBI conducted an undercover sting operation against Calderon. Agents posed as independent movie executives interested in changing California’s film tax-credit requirements. According to a sealed FBI affidavit, Calderon accepted more than $60,000 from undercover agents in exchange for sponsoring favorable legislation.
The California Senate Rules Committee voted 4-0 to remove Calderon from his appointed committee positions.
He was chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee and a member of these committees: Banking and Financial Institutions, Environmental Quality, and Governmental Organization. The Rules Committee also voted to dissolve Calderon’s Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industries, which had not held any hearings.
“Our job here is not to determine whether there has been any violation of the criminal law. That is not our job,” California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who chairs the Rules Committee, said before the vote. “Our job is to uphold the code of ethics of the Senate and the code of conduct expected of public officials.”
Calderon issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.
“I am profoundly disappointed by the Senate Rules Committee decision to strip me of my committee assignments,’’ he declared. He said he had been falsely accused and was a victim of “illegal acts committed by a federal agency,’’ an apparent reference to the FBI inquiry.
He went on to say, “I have not been charged or convicted with any unjust doing, yet I am being treated by this committee and some media outlets as if I had. The appropriate action to take would be to allow me to continue the work I was elected to do and to allow me to remain on my committee assignments.’’
Reaction to Al Jazeera’s disclosures has been swift. The day after the story aired on Al Jazeera America, Steinberg removed Calderon from a state commission that oversees $100 million in annual tax credits for movies made in California.
The Los Angeles Daily News called for Calderon to resign from the Senate in a Nov. 5 editorial, as did a family political rival, Cristina Garcia, who defeated his brother Thomas Calderon in the 2012 race for 58th Assembly District.
Ronald Calderon declined to comment on the FBI investigation when Al Jazeera sought to question him before airing the story last month. However, he issued a public statement soon afterward criticizing Garcia for her public comments and accused Al Jazeera of violating the law by publishing the FBI’s sealed affidavit.
The story prompted the FBI to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into how the sealed affidavit became public.
At today’s hearing, the Rules Committee decided against launching an ethics investigation of Calderon after one of its attorneys said federal prosecutors had asked the chamber to hold off on such an inquiry.
The Rules Committee then adjourned, with Calderon stripped of all power except the ability to vote on the Senate floor.