SACRAMENTO — California’s political watchdog agency said Monday it has declined to open an investigation into a lawmaker whose name surfaced in an ongoing federal investigation of a state senator.
The Fair Political Practices Commission told Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, that it will not investigate whether he was involved in the transfer of a $25,000 contribution from a Latino political action committee to a nonprofit.
The nonprofit, Californians for Diversity, is run by former Assemblyman Tom Calderon. FBI agents raided the offices of Calderon’s brother, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, in June as part of an investigation.
The commission asked de Leon earlier this month for more information about the contribution but said in a letter dated Monday that he would not be the subject of an investigation.
Instead, the agency has initiated an investigation into whether any elected officer of the Latino Caucus’ political action committee, Yes We Can, might have directed the donation from the group to the nonprofit.
If so, the parties would have been required to report the contribution as a behested payment under California’s campaign finance laws, said Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC’s enforcement division. A letter announcing the investigation does not name any specific target.
Ron Calderon was in line to become chairman of the legislative Latino Caucus this year, but state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, did not want to give up the job. A few weeks after the caucus voted to keep Lara as chairman, Yes We Can gave $25,000 to Californians for Diversity, the nonprofit run by Ron Calderon’s brother.
In a letter to the FPPC denying de Leon’s involvement in the donation, his attorney, Stephen Kaufman, said the lawmaker “did not request the contribution, did not recommend the contribution, and was not part of any vote or decision to make the contribution.”
In an emailed statement Monday, de Leon said “I had nothing to do with the contribution and am pleased that after reviewing the evidence the FPPC quickly closed this matter.”
Calderon has not been charged in the federal probe, but he said in documents filed in federal court that the raid on his office occurred after he refused FBI requests to wear a recording device and act as an informant against de Leon and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
De Leon, a top candidate to succeed Steinberg as Senate leader, produced a letter from federal prosecutors saying he is considered a potential witness in that investigation and is not a target at this time. Steinberg has also said through a spokesman that he has a similar letter.