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. Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.
This TV report from Wednesday night is the first big development in the case since the FBI raided Democratic State Senator Ron Calderon’s Capitol office earlier this year.
Al Jazeera report: “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.”
The affidavit says Calderon accepted $60,000 in bribes 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. Quote: “I am in so tight with the pro Tem,” Calderon tells the undercover agent, adding: “He will do whatever I want.”
Steinberg: “That comment was outrageous.”
A visibly angry Steinberg met with reporters in the Senate chambers yesterday afternoon. He dismissed Calderon’s comments as “braggadocio” and said that while he hasn’t read the whole affidavit…
Steinberg: “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.
Steinberg: “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 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.