Wednesday, June 26, 2013

State Sen. Ron Calderon sets up legal defense fund -- which, unlike a campaign, has no limit on giving

The Sacramento Bee reported June 21 that state Sen. Ron Calderon, who represents the Montebello area, has set up "a legal defense fund to cover expenses related to his 'public corruption investigation,'" according to a letter he filed with the secretary of state.

The FBI raided Calderon's Sacramento office June 4 and carted off several boxes. Although the agency has not said what it's investigating, it appears that the issue involves the senator's relationship with Central Basin Municipal Water District, for whom his brother Tom, a former state legislator, worked as a consultant.

Central Basin is a member of the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority.

Calderon's letter, the Bee continues, says that the funds "will be only to pay the attorney's fees and other legal costs related to the defense of the candidate as well as administrative costs directly related to compliance with recordkeeping and reporting requirements."

This isn't the senator's first experience with a legal defense fund, as the Bee noted.

He raised more than $150,000 after the legal issue was resolved, and his "expenditures from the account included more than $10,000 at the Bandon Dunes golf course in Oregon, $11,000 at the Edgewood golf resort at Lake Tahoe and $400 on restaurant tabs in Hawaii."

The rules were later changed, but one great irony remains regarding defense funds for elected officials: Unlike campaign contributions, "donations to legal defense funds remain free from the limits on how much individuals and interest groups can give to political campaigns."

In politics, money = influence.  And when the amount a contributor can give is unlimited, and the issues in play are whether the official will be found guilty of a crime and possibly go to jail? That, dear reader, is the potential for massively corrupting influence.

And all through a tool intended, in this case, to help an official defend himself in a public corruption investigation.

It's a looking-glass world.
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