Ken Leighton 11 a.m., May 20
FBI raid draws spotlight to San Diego donors and legislators
Democrats Hueso and Lara, along with Viejas, Sempra, and Bridgepoint, have had big money ties to state's Latino Legislative Caucus
In a California capitol raid rivaling the Shrimpscam bust of the 1980s, FBI agents last evening rolled through the offices of Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello - a political ally of San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso, also a Democrat - and the headquarters of the state's Latino Legislative Caucus.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Calderon's lawyer Mark Geragos as saying that the FBI investigation, reported to center on alleged public corruption in Los Angeles, was a sham.
"The only one so far who has done anything improper is the government," Geragos said. "The government is out of control and we are going to take the appropriate action to hold them accountable. They should be ashamed of themselves."
Geragos said he plans to go to court to ask that anything taken from the senator's office be returned. Asked about the search of caucus records, Geragos said: "They were desperate to try to justify their … investigation."
No one from the government was talking, other than to say the obvious, that an investigation of some sort was under way.
As Dorian Hargrove reported here in February, Hueso's senate campaign disclosed an expenditure of funds during a Latino Caucus meeting in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Hueso also spent $1,458 on hotel accommodations for "candidate and son" for one night at the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles. According to the disclosure, Hueso was there for a "legislative meeting with Latino Caucus members."
The caucus provided substantial funding of Hueso's successful senate bid.
On December 31, according to a filing posted online today by the California Secretary of State's office, Democratic Assemblyman Ben Hueso picked up a total of $7800 from the California Latino Caucus Leadership PAC.
The cash is for Hueso's run for the seat of state Senator Juan Vargas, a fellow Democrat who was elected in November to succeed San Diego mayor Bob Filner in Congress.
As noted by the Times, Calderon has also been chummy with Ed Roski, owner of Majestic Realty and wealthy would-be developer of a proposed NFL stadium in the city of Industry, at one time regarded by some as a serious threat to lure the Chargers away from San Diego.
In 2010, after he voted to support an environmental waiver for a football stadium proposed in the city of Industry, Calderon was one of a few lawmakers to accept tickets to a Lakers playoff game from the stadium developer, Majestic Realty.
He previously came under scrutiny for his handling of his legal defense fund, which was set up to cover costs stemming from a vote recount in 2006. Calderon spent thousands of dollars from the defense account on a fundraiser, golf outings and a private airplane service.
Another San Diego link to Calderon and the Latino Caucus is Sen. Ricardo Lara, a graduate of San Diego State University.
Lara recently cancelled a fundraiser for himself and the caucus, set to be held in Las Vegas, after the Sacramento Bee revealed that Station Casinos, the event's host, was lobbying legislators for a California tribal casino project.
At least one San Diego county tribal casino has also been a big caucus backer. So far this year, the Viejas tribal government has given the fund a total of $7500, according to California Secretary of State disclosure records.
Last year's San Diego-based donors to the caucus included Sempra Energy ($6500); controversial private school promoter Bridgepoint Education ($11,500); and Midland Credit Management ($5000).
Update: The Sacramento Bee has reported that state Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard says that reports that the FBI raided the Latino Caucus offices during its investigation related to Ron Calderon were in error, and that only Calderon's offices were searched.
Officials with Senate leader Darrell Steinberg had said that the federal search warrants involved both Calderon's office at the Capitol and the caucus office across the street at 1020 N street.
"One of those offices was erroneously identified as an office of the Legislative Latino Caucus, based on an outdated roster of room numbers," Beard said in a statement. "The Legislative Latino Caucus moved into new offices earlier this year.
"Both offices that are subject to the sealed search warrants are the offices of Senator Calderon; one in the Capitol building and the other in the Legislative Office Building."