State Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) has filed papers with the state to form a legal defense fund, which will allow him to accept contributions from political supporters to defray costs associated with the recent FBI raid of his Capitol offices.
In the statement of organization filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State, Calderon wrote that the fund was “for the public corruption investigation.”
In an attached letter, Calderon and his campaign treasurer wrote: “These 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 to meet financial reporting requirements.
The FBI raided Calderon’s office June 4, and a law enforcement source said at the time that Calderon was “the focus of the investigation.” Since then, federal authorities have seized records from a Southern California water district that provided contracts to Calderon’s brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon.
Sen. Calderon has hired high-profile criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos to represent him.
The ability of elected officials to form legal defense funds has been controversial. Ronald Calderon drew criticism for expenses paid for by a legal defense fund he set up to help him in a vote recount in 2006.
Back then, he used the fund to pay $11,200 for a fundraiser at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, $5,880 to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, a $333 tab at Makena Golf Course in Hawaii and $10,000 to private airplane service Tower Aviation. The defense fund money came from special-interest supporters, including $25,000 from Hollywood Park Land Co. and $20,000 from the union representing state prison guards.
Afterward, the state Fair Political Practices Commission adopted new rules that limit the use of such funds to attorneys' fees and legal costs.
Bob Stern, former general counsel for the FPPC, said the funds can serve a legitimate purpose in helping public officials defend themselves against meritless accusations, “but if you commit a crime, I think you should pay for it.”
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