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Corruption Chronicles

Democratic Party Bails Out Corrupt Senator

Rather than use funds for their intended purpose of electing members to the legislature, California’s Democratic Party has instead spent nearly half a million dollars (and counting?) to defend a corrupt veteran lawmaker with a history of serious ethics violations.

Even loyal party insiders have expressed outrage that the party has once again dug into its dwindling coffers to help out one of the state’s most powerful and shady politicians, state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, the target of a years-long FBI investigation. The Democratic State Central Committee of California gave Perata’s legal fund $200,000 in December and another $250,000 last week. So far he has racked up nearly $2 million in legal fees and the tab is sure to swell.

Federal authorities say the well-connected Oakland politician received kickbacks through a lobbyist in exchange for his coveted influence in the state legislature. They say he took hefty sums of cash to help Bay Area card clubs stop Indian tribes from opening urban casinos that would compete with them and his two adult children have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from so-called political committees under his direct control.

This guy is so sleazy that he transferred nearly $300,000 from one of his state committees (Board of Equalization) to his legal defense fund. The cash came from telecommunications firms, public utilities, health insurance providers and credit-card companies that donated the money to elect Perata to the obscure committee that he probably went for just to raise the money. Now it will go to his attorneys.

Like many politicians, Perata has a “consulting” firm that charges special interests big bucks and clouds the already diminished line between his job as an elected official and an advocate of those lucrative interests. In fact, he has been fined by state ethics regulators for failing to disclose at least $15,000 in income from a political supporter whom he helped get business as a legislator.


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