Tag Archives: Ron Calderon

Ron Calderon Takes a Leave of Absence

Calderons photo img5259preview_zpsab71bcaa.jpgSenator Facing Corruption Charges Looks for His Day in Court

by Brian Leubitz

Say goodbye to that Senate Supermajority, as Ron Calderon has announced that he will be taking a paid leave of absence to focus on the corruption charges he faces.

“This is not a resignation since I still have my day in court,” Calderon said in a statement. “However, due to the nature and complexity of the charges, and the discovery materials that I will have to review, I expect this to be a lengthy period of absence continuing until the end of the session in August.”(SacBee)

Now, I’m not sure that there were going to be a ton of supermajority votes coming up this session, so perhaps that takes away a bit of the sting. However, don’t tell MSNBC that, as they have a big headline on their homepage announcing that “Corruption suit costs Dems control of state” despite it actually doing nothing of the sort. (UPDATE: It now says “Dems lose supermajority in key state.” Not sure why they couldn’t say California, but hey, headline writers, amiright?)

On the more practical side of things, surely this will be annoying for Calderon’s constituents. However, the fact that he is not actually resigning means that the rather expensive process of a special election will likely be avoided.  The election would have been for a seat that has been redistricted out of existence, and would only have been filled for a few months by the time all is said and done. So, perhaps Calderon drawing a paycheck is actually the best of some pretty rotten choices.

Ron Calderon Gets the Committee Boot

Calderons photo img5259preview_zpsab71bcaa.jpgEmbattled Senator Faces Rules Committee to Keep Committee Assignments

by Brian Leubitz

Ron Calderon’s had a no-good, awful, very bad few days. But being named in an FBI investigation generally doesn’t make for good times. And while Sen. Steinberg notes that he doesn’t want to play judge and jury for the San Gabriel Valley senator, he would like to pull him off his committees to limit any appearances of improprieties. Sen Steinberg:

I am asking the Senate Rules Committee to temporarily remove Senator Ron Calderon as chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, pending resolution of the United States Attorney’s investigation into his conduct. I will also ask the Committee to temporarily remove Senator Calderon from all other committee assignments, pending the same investigation.

I do not make this request lightly, nor do I judge the truth of the publicly reported allegations. I am concerned, however, about keeping Senator Calderon in his positions. The allegations, though yet unproven, are serious enough to cloud any interactions the Senator might have with colleagues, advocates, and the public on issues within his jurisdiction.

The allegation that an elected official accepted money and other favors in exchange for official acts is perhaps the most serious breach of the public trust and the institution in which they serve. In other highly sensitive public situations that do not involve proven allegations of misconduct, public employers take similar actions. The public and the Senate deserve no less protection in the current situation.

Calderon has made no comment, and seems unlikely to fight the “temporary” changes. He’ll likely need to save his energy for a prospective prosecution and general fight for the future of the Calderon political dynasty. But George Skelton points out a little something about our political system: there is far too fine of a line between bribery and legal contributions.

In politics, there’s sleaze that can send a slimeball to prison. There also is legal bribery. Lots of it….  And I’m not saying that legal bribery is as odorous as smelly sleaze. But it does tend to emit a stench. Campaign money actually gets a bad rap, to one degree. It costs a fair amount to run a competitive race.

If the public is unwilling to finance the campaigns of state politicians – and public financing has become impractical anyway, because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings – then the political funds must come from some other source. A very wealthy candidate might be willing to finance his own campaign, but normally the funding is supplied by favor-seeking special interests.(George Skelton / LA Times)

Skelton goes on to list a few of the many ways rich donors can curry favor with cash, and how those politicians can then spend it. Of course there is a stench, but this is the system that we chose, or at least the system that the Supreme Court has chosen for us. It is a system that is dominated by those with the most readily available cash.

We should do everything in our power to root out corruption, but we have to do as much as possible to clean up the system that makes corruption, legal and illegal, so readily available.

Photo credit: Sen. Ron Calderon’s office. Caption: “Senator Calderon, accompanied by his older brother, Assemblymember Charles Calderon, and the Senator’s nephew, Ian Calderon, as they prepare to begin giving the turkeys to the local community organizations that participated in Operation Gobble.”

The Calderons, Bribes, and Fake Employees

 photo senator_calderon_zps629981d3.jpgState Senator caught in undercover sting

by Brian Leubitz

Calderons and corruption? Well, shocking as it may be, Sen. Ron Calderon is currently involved in an undercover corruption sting.

State Sen. Ronald Calderon accepted bribes from a Southern California hospital executive who ran an alleged workers’ compensation scheme that brought the executive tens of millions of dollars, according to a sealed FBI affidavit obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

In exchange for payments to family members, Calderon, a Democrat who represents a suburban district here, protected the interests in Sacramento of Michael Drobot, who ran a busy spinal surgery clinic in Long Beach, Calif., the affidavit says. The document says Calderon ensured that changes to state law would not injure Drobot’s lucrative business of providing spinal fusion surgery, which joins two or more vertebrae. (Al Jazeera America)

The article reads like an old school political hack job, but Al Jazeera says they got the material from the FBI affidavit. Stay classy Calderons!

Tony Cardenas and Ron Calderon Announce Attempts at Congressional Districts

Both are seeking districts with no incumbents, but may face a moving incumbent

by Brian Leubitz

With seemingly final lines set for next year’s elections, expect a lot of moving trucks around Los Angeles.  But the upheaval also means that some new folks are trying to muscle their way into the term limits free halls of Congress. You can view the proposed districts here.

Two such names that announced today are Sen. Ron Calderon and Asm. Tony Cardenas.  Calderon will be seeking the proposed 38th district, which includes Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, and Whittier.  Cardenas is looking at San Fernando Valley’s 29th district.

But don’t expect either of these two to face a cakewalk.  The Calderon district has about 51% of voters from Rep. Linda Sanchez, and she’s drawn into a district with Grace Napolitano.  And frankly, between Ron Calderon and Sanchez, there really isn’t much of a debate as to who the better member of Congress would be.

Dems Behaving Badly

You may have noticed that I don’t always agree with Ron Calderon and his legislative priorities.  You know, killing bills that block the dumping of indigent hospital patients and releasing private prescription data to marketers just isn’t my thing.  But today he has a new honor, being named the Worst Legislator in California with his brother Asm. Charles Calderon.

Of course, Calderon isn’t the first to win this award from the LA Weekly, that honor goes to Felipe Fuentes for, well, being a California legislator.  The knock on Fuentes made last year could just as well have been made on almost every legislator in the Capitol.  The problem they pointed out with Fuentes was that he was “authoring” bills actually written by “sponsoring” interests.  Yes, Fuentes does that, and he might take the art to new levels, but he is hardly unique.  This is just part of the crazy, messed-up system we have in Sacramento. (Incidentally, if you’d like to learn just how messed up it is, Ray LeBov can teach you a lot in his Lobbying 101 class).

So, yes, “special interests” write most of our bills, and, yes, that is totally and completely messed up.  But, as for Fuentes, hate the game, don’t hate the player.  Well, maybe tell the player to knock it the hell off, and wait for him to get termed out.  And the Brothers Calderon’s “award” starts with a similar trope of bill “sponsors.”  But more importantly it moves on to how they have been key players on Team PayDayLoan:

The reward for Calderon has been significant. According to MAPLight, he received more in direct campaign contributions connected to the payday and title loans special-interest group – $31,450 – than any other member of the Assembly in the 2009-10 or 2010-11 sessions. In the state Senate, his brother Ron received the most from the payday group – $50,000.

The current $300 loans cost a fee of $45, the maximum allowed. But the fee is deducted from the loan, leaving the borrower just $255 – and beholden for $300. That must be repaid within two weeks. The average payday loan customer takes out seven such loans each year. …

Charles Calderon argues that the current $300 limit barely pays the bills. “There are people who think payday lenders are vultures,” he says. “I don’t think I’m in a position to decide what [people’s] reasons are for wanting these loans. I represent East L.A., and those people need that money when they need it, sometimes to save the family car. I grew up in East L.A. in a poor family. I know desperation. Desperate people do desperate things.”

The assemblyman bristles when he’s accused of taking money for his vote, or as payback for carrying a bill for special interests.

“I might take money from a bank or a union, and then two or three years down the road I vote on a bill affecting that bank or union – and I get criticized because they gave me money years before.”

Not always “two or three years” later. As MAPLight.org points out regarding his yes vote on AB 2774, the big sums appeared in Calderon’s campaign chest within days. (LA Weekly)

As Asm. Holly Mitchell (D-47th, SE LA) pointed out, these lenders are vultures who are preying on the vulnerable.  Making Californians more vulnerable is not the answer.

But that’s not all for the Brothers Calderon.  Today, the LA Times revealed the dirty work that the Calderons have been doing for their local water agency:

Central Basin has also paid Oldtimers’ board president, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, more than $750,000 in consulting fees since 2004 for political and legislative advice.

Calderon’s two brothers, both state legislators, have defended the water district’s interests in Sacramento. In 2009, Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) helped thwart an audit of Central Basin’s books. This year, Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) proposed legislation that could reduce the fees Central Basin’s customers pay for groundwater.

Tom and Ron Calderon, as well as Central Basin officials and contractors, helped finance a recall effort in 2008 against two council members in the City of Commerce who were critics of the water district, records show. (LA Times

The Calderons are certainly not the only ones who will do you a favor for some campaign cash or a gig for their brother, but they certainly strike a stunning profile in the art.  Ron is termed out in 2014, Charles in 2012.  Although, I suppose it wouldn’t shock anybody to see Tom Calderon run for the Senate seat in 2014 so that they can continue their, umm, service to the people of California.

One of the issues with the so called “moderates” in the California Democratic party isn’t so much where they disagree on social issues, because that rarely comes up anymore.  It is where they are able to be swayed by, typically, large corporate interests to put the interests of the few over the interests of the many.  That’s really not being moderate, that’s something entirely different, that doesn’t serve constituents or the state in general.  If you have beliefs, fine, let’s talk about them.  But I’m not so sure the Calderons really want to have a very public debate about the finer points of payday loans or water policy vis a vis their consulting contracts.

Clearly the laws of the State of California leave gaping holes for dirty money to seep in, and much of it is completely legal while some others skirt the lines.  However, we needn’t strive to walk that line, but rather look for ways to cut dramatically back on this crap.  And perhaps some political dynasties, the state of California would be better doing without.

The Calderons are hardly the first, and they certainly won’t be the last.  However, we can hope that a little sunshine from organizations like MapLight can discourage the skeazier of these actions.

Online Voter Registration?

If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you’ll see a “Rock the Vote” Voter Registration Widget. Why did I put it at the bottom where nobody sees it? Well, mainly because you can’t really register to vote. Rather, you can get somebody to send you a filled out form that still requires you to sign and return it.  It’s convenient, but not all that effective. But real online voter registration? That would be great.

It’s not often that I praise Senator Ron Calderon, but I’ll give him credit for putting forward SB 381, a bill that would create real online voter registration. The bill would use the signature from your driver’s license or other DMV issued ID card as signature confirmation, if necessary, at the polling place.  In addition, you’ll have to enter your driver’s license #, DOB, and the last four digits of your social security number.  That’s quite a bit of information, but the old process of voter registration remains available offline.

A few Republicans even supported the measure.  It’s typically not a very Republican-ish idea to welcome new voters, but in the Elections committee, Ams. Niello and Adams decided that with all the security measures they could get behind it.  Not so for the Appropriations committee, where the vote went party-line style. Asm. Doug LaMalfa goes back to the voter fraud meme in order to get in on the voter suppression act:

“My main concern is that voting security is not tight enough as it is and allowing online registration won’t help,” said Assemblyman Doug La Malfa, R-Biggs (Butte County), who voted against the bill in committee. “We should set a high bar for people looking to vote and there are already a lot of fake IDs out there.”(SF Chronicle 7/30/08)

And there’s your fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans realize that the greater the voter turnout, the worse the results for them. Democrats, on the other hand, want to facilitate the process of democracy by allowing California citizens to vote. The choice is clear: build walls or escalators. I think it’s clear that for the process of democracy, we should be building those escalators to the voting booth.

The only remaining question is if we can do this, why can’t we do same-day voter registration? Same-day registration has worked in seven other states. And guess what, the top five states in voter turnout are among them. I understand that it would cost some money to implement, and take some time. But, who can really be against making it easier for us to vote? Oh that’s right, Doug LaMalfa doesn’t want to welcome new voters, he wants to build some nice gated community walls around our polling places.

Commoditization of pharmaceutical records blocked in Assembly

The Assembly Health Committee has unanimously declined to forward SB 1096 to the floor of the Assembly. I’ve written quite a bit about this privacy invasion, and it’s heartening to see this one disappear for a while.

As a reminder, SB 1096 would allow pharmacies to sell prescription data so that patients could receive “reminder letters” from third parties. As the law currently stands, pharmacies and doctors could do so themselves, but could not sell the data to others. Other states allow this privacy invasion, but fortunately California will remain the lone holdout against PhARMA’s plans to commoditize our health records. Despite the $20,000+ that health care interests invested in Sen Calderon, they were unable to succeed in passing this poorly conceived legislation.

Thank you to Asm. Health Cmte Chair Dymally and the entirety of the Committee for rejecting this.

LA Times’ Lazarus blasts SB 1096

I admit it. I'm really up in arms about SB 1096. See, I really value my privacy, and want to ensure the privacy of my fellow Californians. particularly Californians with the following conditions: Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Asthma, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Cancer, Gastric disorder, Hypertension, Thyroid disorder, Organ transplantation, Chronic eye disorder, Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, Renal disorders, Parkinson's disease, Seizures, Multiple sclerosis, Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety disorders, Attention deficit disorder. Phew, that was a mouthful!

But David Lazarus, the consumer reporter at the LA Times (for now), notes another drawback of this bill that I neglected to mention:

The reality, critics say, is that this is an effort by pharmaceutical companies to help ensure that patients stick with expensive name-brand drugs and not stray toward cheaper generic alternatives. (LAT 6/11/08)

 There is a clear financial stake in this for name-brand manufacturers. They want you to keep buying ProzacTM or ZoloftTM, not the generic knock-offs that cost the system, and the patient, substantially less money.

I highly recommend the Lazarus article for its other insights.

Calderon's bill appears to anticipate that mailings may be paid for by drug makers or companies such as Adheris and not just by drugstores. It says disclosure is required “if the written communication is paid for, in whole or in part, by a manufacturer, distributor or provider of a healthcare product or service.”

I pointed this out to Calderon.

“I'm not familiar with that,” he replied. “I've never seen that part of the bill.”
He said his sole reason for introducing the legislation was to improve the health of Californians by getting more people with chronic conditions to take their medication.

Since 2002, Calderon has received at least $89,000 in contributions from drug companies and pharmacy chains, according to public records.

It's clear that Sen. Calderon dearly wants this stinker to pass. So do his contributors.

Follow up on Ron Calderon and the bill to sell prescription data

Last week I wrote a post about SB 1096, a bill to allow pharmacies to sell prescription data. Apparently that post got some attention, partially for my rather crass snark, but also for the subject of the bill.  One particular response was noteworthy. I publish the following email with permission of the author; the phone number is for the main line at Calderon's Sacramento office.


You should go back to public policy school and learn how to read a bill. You apparently don’t know how to or are too lazy. If you had bothered to do that, rather than taking the word of others who haven’t read the bill either, you’d have known how inaccurate your misinformed little column is. And accuracy should be important, even for bloggers. If you would like to discuss you can reach me at (916) xxx-xxxx.

Rocky Rushing
Chief of Staff
Senator Ronald S. Calderon
30th Senate District

Perhaps I should go back to school, it was fun after all. But, I think I know how to read a bill pretty darn well. Specifically, I'm pretty comfortable with my analysis of SB 1096.  I called the number in the email and eventually spoke to Mr. Rushing. His principal concern was a quote from the Consumer Federation of California that indicated that SB 1096 would allow pharmacies to sell data to pharmaceutical manufacturers that I quoted from the Chronicle article

“This bill would be a windfall for corporations seeking to track, buy and sell a patient's private medical records,” said Zack Kaldveer, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of California. “This would represent a significant intrusion by pharmaceutical companies into the privacy of patients. By opening this Pandora's box, consumers could wind up receiving mailings designed to look as if they came from the pharmacy yet conflict with what their pharmacist or doctor has recommended. Such a scenario would be a threat to their health.” (SF Chron 5/28/08)

First, he should think about taking this up with the Consumer Fed, but I'll address it as well.  I described the purchasers of this data as “pharmaceutical marketers.” The accuracy of that description is incontrovertible; clearly the people buying this data can be fairly described as marketers. Mr. Rushing was quite keen on saying that the data wasn't going to the manufacturers but rather to these third party data brokers. Now, that might be true in practice, but there is no limitation in the bill as written which would stop the manufacturers from attaining this data to send these letters themselves. 

The nitty gritty and some more details of the conversation over the flip.

Here's the newly crafted language of the relevant law:

Except to the extent expressly authorized by the patient or enrollee or subscriber or as provided by subdivisions (b) and (c), no provider of health care, health care service plan, contractor, or corporation and its subsidiaries and affiliates shall intentionally share, sell, use for marketing, or otherwise use any medical information for any purpose not necessary to provide health care services to the patient. For purposes of this section, a written communication mailed to a patient by a pharmacy shall be deemed to be necessary to provide health care services to the patient and shall not require prior authorization, if all of the following conditions are met:(emphasis added)

There are a bunch of limitations to this broad general exception to the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act that you can see if you check out the bill. There's a requirement that the letters stop when there's no refills remaining or the prescription is canceled and a requirement that only the drug prescribed can be referenced in the reminder letter. There are strict confidentiality provisions in proposed Civil Code 56.10(d)(9). But nowhere does the bill stop manufacturers from purchasing the data from pharmacies. In fact, the bill explicitly contemplates that “manufacturers and distributors” will be paying for these letters by requiring a disclosure on the letter. 

Furthermore, I'm not sure having 3rd party data brokers like Adheris (aka Elansys ) having the data is really that much more comforting than having Merck or Eli Lilly having it. In effect, this bill would moot a court case brought against Adheris for doing this already. Retroactive immunity is in vogue these days I suppose. (Note: It's not clear that this would moot the court case, that would have to be resolved by the courts.)

But to the greater issue, that of privacy. Mr. Rushing makes the argument that 49 other states have this rule to allow sales of pharmaceutical records, and why is California the outlier? There is a simple response to this: Californians value their privacy. We have the toughest privacy laws in the nation, thank you, Representative Speier, precisely because we feel that data warehousers shouldn't have access to every morsel of information about us. As my mother always said, just because everybody else is doing it doesn't mean that we should too.  We needn't join that race to the privacy floor that HIPAA provides.  Our privacy laws are, and should be, a model for other states.

That being said, there are health benefits of reminder communications for chronic conditions. However, they do not need to be sponsored. The pharmacy can send out these mailings now as could the prescribing doctor.  In fact, despite whatever arguments the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the California Retailers Association makes on the policy arguments that this is substantially better for public health (Rushing gave me a $150bn figure for nationwide savings if everybody took their meds on schedule), the fact is that the risk involved in the sales of these records outweighs the benefits. We can already provide reminders without sales of medical records financed by manufacturers or distributors. Even the California Medical Association agrees that we needn't travel this risky ground in the name of possible results.
I had a very enlightening conversation with Mr. Rushing on other issues as well, whereupon he told me that “Ivory Tower/Ivy League” elites just don't get the district. I will point out that I have been entirely educated by public schools, from kindergarten through both graduate degrees.  Nonetheless, it was all the “elites”(like me, I suppose) fault because everybody loves the Calderons in the district.  Well, at least 300 people more than those who liked Rudy Bermudez in the 2006 primary election. (PDF Results here ) Oh, Mr. Rushing also believes that they deserve their success because of their record of service.  I think that really there is too much there to even parse.

When I asked Mr. Rushing if he happened to know how many individual contributions Sen. Calderon took in last year, or at least a general comparison to how much money he had received from interests opposed to consumer privacy. He was unable to answer, but I am. Sen. Calderon over $20K  from corporations and PACs that would be benefitted by SB 1096. As to the other side of the equation, let's just say that last year Senator Ron Calderon took in no personal contributions, no contributions from privacy groups, etc. But, I suppose that's all chump change compared to what Ron Calderon took in for his “Legal Defense Fund” that he used on his recount in the 2006 election.

I'll agree that the 30th Senate District isn't a bastion of wealth, and that it needs legislators that put in effort and facetime.  It's great that people know the Calderons. But it would be even better if elections were determined not by family relationships, but by the issues and accomplishments that each candidate brings to the table. Mr. Calderon eeked out his election against Rudy Bermudez, a former Assemblyman who fought for ethics reform, and he next faces voters in 2010. I'm sure Senator Calderon will use the opportunity to discuss his achievements. We'll see if allowing pharmacies to sell prescription data is in the stump speech.

Oh, and if Mr. Rushing is interested in a policy school, I highly recommend Berkeley's Goldman School.

Ron Calderon: The Anti-Speier

Ignore the physical differences between Jackie Speier and Ronald Calderon, the jokes are too easy to make.  These two legislators are basically examples of where the California Democratic Party is coming from and where it is headed. Calderon is the past, Speier is the future.

Current Representative (and 20-year state legislator) Speier is a leader who stands up to corporations. The privacy bill that she passed is the toughest in the nation. And she passed that despite the fierce opposition of financial institutions that the bill regulated, save for the CEO of e-Loan.  Oh, and she pissed off the Republicans in the House. While the privacy bill is her hallmark legislation, she has a record that anybody would be proud of.

Calderon, on the other hand, is part of the “Mod Squad” intent on nuzzling up to the corporate trough. He is fond of the all money is good money philosophy, no matter how many strings are attached. And perhaps he knows something about which Rep. Speier speaks. In this session, he has been pushing SB1096, a bill to allow pharmacies to sell medical records to pharmaceutical marketers. The privacy implications are astounding, and unacceptable.


The legislation would allow pharmaceutical firms to send mailings directly to patients. Supporters of the proposal say the intent is to remind patients to take their medicine and order refills. But consumer privacy advocates are outraged.

“This bill would be a windfall for corporations seeking to track, buy and sell a patient’s private medical records,” said Zack Kaldveer, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of California. “This would represent a significant intrusion by pharmaceutical companies into the privacy of patients.

“By opening this Pandora’s box, consumers could wind up receiving mailings designed to look as if they came from the pharmacy yet conflict with what their pharmacist or doctor has recommended. Such a scenario would be a threat to their health.”

The California Medical Association opposes the legislation, contending that it could jeopardize patient safety and hurt doctor-patient relationships. The mailings are particularly problematic for patients with sensitive medical issues such as mental illnesses, says the association. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The bill originally failed by a vote of 17-17, with an interesting coalition of Republicans and Democrats opposing the bill. Eventually, Calderon was able to pass the bill out of the Senate last week by adding an opt-out provision. The final Senate vote was 21-16, with the Noes including progressives like Kuehl and Migden and conservatives like McClintock and Battin.

However, opt-out is not strong enough. Heck, even e-mail marketers for retail stores like the gap have the common courtesy to ask before they send us spam. The least California can do is require that pharmacies get affirmative opt-ins to this practice. The privacy of medical records is just too important to monkey around with opt-out rules.

But opt-out wouldn’t really work for the drug marketers, would it? The data would be too sporadic to have any great value.  This bill was essentially written by Adheris, the self-described leader in “prescription drug patient behavior modification.” In other words, they’re trying to sell more drugs. By the way, they don’t have such a great record on these issues:

A primary backer of the bill is Adheris Inc, a subsidiary of a drug marketing company that was sued several years ago under its former name for privacy violations. Adheris is involved in a pending class-action lawsuit in San Diego involving the same issues in the Calderon bill. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The California Senate made the mistake of letting this stinker slip through. The Assembly cannot do the same. Contact your Assemblymember and tell them to vote NO on SB 1096. I know I’ll be contacting mine.