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Advocates call for ban on gifts in wake of Calderon raid

June 06, 2013|By Melanie Mason
  • Abdullah Muhammad, who lives in the 30th Senate District of state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), said it was time to "eliminate year-round Christmas," as he and other members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment called for an end to gift-giving to lawmakers, during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento.
Abdullah Muhammad, who lives in the 30th Senate District of state Sen. Ron… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO--A housing advocacy group, casting embattled state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) as a symbol of the influence special interests have on lawmakers, called for tighter bans on lobbyist gifts at a Thursday rally at the Capitol.

Around 50 members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) convened at the Capitol’s south steps, many clad in matching yellow T-shirts. Members focused on Calderon’s notable accumulation of gifts, which they said indicated close ties to industries--sometimes, they charged, at the expense of his constituents.

Peggy Mears, an organizer from the Inland Empire, said her group had no specific knowledge of wrongdoing or  cause for the FBI raid on his offices Tuesday.

“We’re not here to say the charges against him are false or true,” Mears said. “What we’re saying is that there’s an epidemic in the elected officialdom of accepting gifts. And we want this to stop.”

Calderon's office did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Mears called for a ban on all gifts from lobbyists and lobbyists’ employers. Lobbyists currently cannot give more than $10 per month to an elected official. But Mears said those limits can be skirted by giving through employers or nonprofit foundations. She also criticized lawmakers like Calderon for holding out-of-state fundraisers.

“The constituents of this state pay you enough money. You can buy your own gifts,” said Abdullah Muhammad, who lives in Calderon’s district. “You don’t need Christmas year-round. You don’t need your birthday year-round.”

The group has clashed with Calderon before, particularly in their advocacy for the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, a foreclosure protection measure. ACCE members said the Senate banking committee, of which Calderon is a member, often posed an obstacle.

Calderon voted for the bill and lauded its passage last summer.

“Although we got the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights passed, it was a hard-fought battle,” Mears said. “We had to fight lobbyists. We were like David and they were Goliath.”


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