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Common Cause leader announces run for Secretary of State

June 18, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Voters huddle in the dryer section to mark their ballots at Super Suds laundromat, which served as a polling place in Long Beach
Voters huddle in the dryer section to mark their ballots at Super Suds laundromat,… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

The newest candidate for California Secretary of State said Tuesday that the FBI investigation of state Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) might be a wake-up call for the need to tighten campaign-finance and gift laws.

Derek Cressman, former regional director of Common Cause, announced his candidacy at the Capitol on Tuesday and said he would work to make it harder for wealthy contributors and gift-givers to influence elections and legislators.

“Maybe it will be a call to arms,” said Cressman, 45, about the FBI raid of Calderon's two Capitol offices. Since then, The Times reported that four Calderon family members have had 10 overlapping campaign accounts open at any one time, bypassing state political contribution limits by accepting maximum donations to each.

“That’s double-dipping. That practice should be banned,” Cressman said.

Following the FBI raid, the media also reported on Calderon and his brothers, who are former legislators, receiving tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, many from special interests with business before the Legislature.

Cressman said he would support legislation replacing the current $440 limit on such gifts with a ban when the giver has legislation or business pending before the state.

“I think we should crack down on all of that,” he said.

The Sacramento resident said that as Secretary of State he would move swiftly to improve the state’s antiquated voter-registration system so there could be election-day voter registration. He also said he would improve the Cal-Access database so the public would have easier access to information on who is contributing to candidates and paying for lobbyists.

Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) have previously announced their candidacy for Secretary of State. Cressman said he provides a difference.

"We really need an elections expert in that office, not a career politician using it as a stepping stone for another office,” he said.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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