FBI agents posed as film execs to pay off Calif. state senator
State Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother were indicted on federal corruption charges on Friday, including allegations that the lawmaker accepted bribes in exchange for his support of a sweetened production tax credit for independent filmmakers.
Calderon’s involvement was initially revealed in October, when Al Jazeera America published an affidavit that showed that finder over agents had posed as a film producer and financier seeking legislation that would lower the threshold for independent films to qualify for the state tax credit. It is currently set at a minimum of $1 million and maximum of $10 million.
The revelation resulted in the removal of Calderon from a seat on the California Film Commission.
Calderon has denied wrongdoing.
Also named in the indictment was Calderon’s brother, Thomas, a former assemblyman and lobbyist.
The indictment also alleges corruption involving workers compensation laws.
According to the indictment, Calderon accepted trips to Las Vegas, meals, and employment for his daughter in exchange for pushing for the tax credit legislation. It says that Calderon proposed a separate credit for independent movies and commercials with a minimum budget of $750,000. The legislation was introduced on Feb. 19, 2013 but did not gain approval.
Federal authorities claim Calderon accepted 11 payments totaling $39,000 for his daughter’s employment by the undercover producer. The payments were via a “studio services agreement,” even though his daughter “was not expected to perform” work.
Calderon was one of the sponsors of previous legislation to renew the tax credit. After the disclosure of the affidavit, lawmakers, including those who are pushing to expand the credit distanced themselves from Calderon.
This week, assemblyman Raul Bocanegra and Mike Gatto introduced legislation to expand the credit. But lowering the threshold for independent movies is not part of their proposal, nor has a coalition of entertainment industry studios and guilds sought it.
The indictments were announced by the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.
Calderon and his brother were indicted on 24 federal counts stemming from bribery and cover-ups.
“Defendant Ronald S. Calderon would seek and accept bribes and kickbacks in the form of financial benefits and payments to himself, his children, and to Californians for Diversity and the Calderon Group,” the indictment said.
The indictment also alleged that Ron Calderon accepted money from Long Beach hospital exec Michael Drobot in exchange for a pledge to back legislation benefitting hospitals and that Calderon’s son was hired for three summers at the hospital for $10,000 per summer.
Additionally, the indictment alleged Ron Calderon accepted trips on privately chartered planes, golfing at resorts and meals at expensive restaurants.