SACRAMENTO — Three influential Democratic members of Congress are rallying behind Don Perata, president of the California Senate, by urging the Department of Justice to investigate whether people in government have leaked details about a lengthy federal investigation of the Oakland Democrat.
The FBI began looking into the lawmaker's political and business affairs in 2004. Newspapers have routinely reported details about the probe into whether Perata used his public office in a way that benefited his consultants, family members, business associates, political contributors or himself.
No article since November 2004 has explicitly said that any information came from a federal government source. But in a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey obtained by The Times on Monday, U.S. Reps. John Conyers Jr., Linda Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren wrote, "We are disturbed and concerned that news story after news story . . . has cited federal law enforcement sources as the basis of information."
The only article specifically mentioned in the July 31 letter was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article cited "sources familiar with the probe," a broad term that could encompass federal agents, defense attorneys and people who have been questioned.
That article said the FBI was investigating Perata's role in hiring a lobbyist for a road project sought by a major Perata donor.
A call from The Times to the Department of Justice was not returned.
On Friday, the day after the congressional letter was sent, a Wall Street Journal article said the investigation into Perata "gained momentum over the past year." The article's details were attributed to anonymous people "close to the defense," who said Perata's longtime political consultant, Sandi Polka, was granted immunity to compel her to answer questions.
Polka's lawyer, Matt Jacobs, told The Times that "any implication in that article or otherwise that the investigation has gained momentum from anything that my client has provided is false."