UPDATE, 1:14 PM: The state Senate leader has removed Ron Calderon from the California Film Commission in the wake of allegations in an FBI affidavit of bribery and influence peddling of the state’s $100 million Film and TV tax credit program. “If for no other reason, the appearance of impropriety dictates that the senator no longer sit on that commission,” President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said yesterday after details of Calderon’s supposed actions were made public. Steinberg added that regardless of whether the claims — first revealed by Al Jazeera America — turn out to be true, he doubted that one person could change the state’s film and TV tax credit program the way Calderon is said to have told an undercover FBI agent he could. Steinberg also told reporters Thursday that any effort by Montebello Democrat to drop the $1 million minimum budget requirements for a film to eligible to qualify for the program down to $750,000 was never brought up in committee talks. Additionally, the FBI has asked the DOJ to look into how the sealed affidavit got out.
PREVIOUSLY, OCT. 31 AM: California State Sen. Ron Calderon took tens of thousands of dollars from undercover FBI agents to make changes to the state’s $100 million Film and TV tax credit program, according to Al Jazeera America. Citing a sealed FBI affidavit, the channel aired a report Wednesday providing details into the well-known investigation of the influential state politician.
Calderon’s office was raided by the federal agency this summer. The affidavit (read it here) alleges, among other actions, that in early 2012, Calderon agreed to help an agent posing as “the owner of a film studio in downtown Los Angeles that provides studio facilities to independent films and commercials” to lower from $1 million to $750,000 the budget required as a minimum under the program to qualify for credits. While that never ended up part of the latest tax credit legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 30, 2012, Caldron allegedly assured the undercover agents he would work to get the minimum reduced in the 2013 legislative session. No such change has occurred. Additionally, the Montebello Democrat is said to have taken $60,000 in bribes starting in February 2012 from the fake studio owner. Calderon’s daughter Jessica also was supposedly paid $27,000 to work for the fake studio, though she never put in a day. Calderon’s 30th District represents parts of downtown and West LA. No word from his office on the report or the allegations, but his lawyer Mark Geragos put out a statement saying he thought the details in the affidavit were “fabricated and untrue.”
The Calderon family has long been a powerhouse in Sacramento. Currently the senator’s nephew Ian is the chair of state Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. The committee recently was part of hearings at SAG-AFTRA’s offices to expand the state’s Film and TV tax credit program. With the last two-year extension of the program signed last year, the current tax credits are set to expire in 2014 though they will run until 2017. Brown, who is set to attend a big mogul-hosted fundraiser for his re-election in late November, has not spoken publicly on the program but is known to have reservations about allocating more money.