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FBI Affidavit: State Senator Took Bribes in Undercover Sting Operation

CPR photo/Ben Adler

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) speaks with reporters Thursday in the Senate chambers in response to the FBI affidavit alleging Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) took bribes in an undercover sting operation.

CPR photo/Ben Adler

An undercover FBI agent poses as a Hollywood executive to lure an elected official into taking bribes for legislation.  It sounds like a story Hollywood could have made itself – but in fact, it’s the story laid out in an affidavit that’s sent shockwaves through the California state Capitol.

A Wednesday night TV report was the first big development in the case since the FBI raided the Capitol office of Democratic State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) earlier this year.

“According to a sealed affidavit obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, the senator is for sale: a politician willing to influence legislation in exchange for money,” said the report, which aired on Al Jazeera America.

The affidavit says Calderon accepted $88,000 in bribes - $60,000 of which came from an FBI agent posing as the owner of a movie studio.  In exchange, it alleges the senator tried to pass a film tax credit at the agent’s request.

It also quotes Calderon bragging about his access to Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.  “I am in so tight with the pro Tem,” Calderon tells the undercover agent. “He will do whatever I want.”

“That comment was outrageous,” a visibly angry Steinberg told reporters in the Senate chambers Thursday afternoon.  He dismissed Calderon’s comments as “braggadocio” and said that while he hasn’t read the whole affidavit,“I’ve read enough of it to kind of be sick to my stomach.”

Steinberg pointed out that the tax credit Calderon sought never made it into legislation – let alone passed a single vote.

“This is serious stuff, and it doesn’t reflect well on the individual involved, obviously.  But I’ll be damned if I’m not gonna do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t reflect badly on this institution that I love,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg is removing Calderon from his appointment to the California Film Commission, but says he’s waiting to learn more before deciding whether to call for the senator’s resignation.

Calderon’s lawyer is telling media outlets his client has done nothing wrong.


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio