FBI investigating California senator who vacationed in Cuba with lobbyist
In a follow up to the report we posted yesterday about California elected officials using political funds to vacation in Cuba with a registered lobbyist, we learn that one of those lawmakers is under FBI investigation.
Senator under FBI investigation traveled to Cuba with lobbyist
State Senator Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, whose offices were raided by FBI agents in June, traveled to Cuba during the legislature’s spring break with Sacramento’s “best connected” lobbyist, state campaign finance disclosure reports have revealed. Calderon was one of eight state legislators that secretly traveled to Havana with Darius Anderson, the founder and president of the powerhouse lobbying firm Platinum Advisors.
Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, another Cuba trip participant, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that the trip included a tour of a castle, afternoon salsa lessons and rooftop cocktails, among other activities.
According to the most recent campaign finance report for his state Senate officeholder committee, Calderon spent $6,159 on the March trip, including more than $2,500 on an upgraded Virgin America flight. Within days of returning from Cuba, Pfizer, one of Anderson’s lobbying clients, contributed $1,500 to the same Calderon committee that paid for his trip expenses. In May, just days before Calderon’s offices were raided by the FBI, another Anderson client, AT&T, made a $1,600 contribution to the same Calderon committee.
Under the Calfiornia Political Reform Act, legislators and their staff cannot accept gifts worth more than $10 per month from a registered lobbyist. However, campaign accounts provide legislators with an easy vehicle for circumventing these strict limits on lobbyist gifts. Lobbyists can direct their clients to donate to a member’s campaign account. Then, the member can use the campaign account to pay for personal expenses, including foreign travel.
Since 2011, Calderon’s various campaign committees have collected $12,100 from Anderson’s past or current clients, including the American Council of Life Insurers California, Anthem Blue Cross, AT&T, Conoco Phillips, DirectTV, Dish Network, Pfizer and Phillips 66 Company.
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