LOS ANGELES: When Assembly Democrats voted in 2016 to make Assemblyman Anthony Rendon speaker, he was now in the prime position to continue to do Big Labor’s bidding. In an interview with the Orange County Register after the vote, Rendon said:
“Once this class now, in November, terms out, all of us will be here for 12 years,
so it’s an opportunity for us to do the things we’ve talked about.”
Along with the egregious AB5, other laws that raise fees and penalties on taxpayers, limit police’s use of deadly force (AB392), and restrict medical freedoms (SB276 and SB714), were ushered through the California Legislature. Some seemingly under the cover of darkness.
But AB5 has become the substantiation of Rendon’s claim of fighting for “clean and open government.” It is a bald-faced lie. Along with Rendon’s “Yes” vote on AB5, he championed the law alongside Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. They both performed the work of doing special interests’ bidding, supplying exemptions as earmarks, and performing the very “shady backroom deals” that Rendon claims to eschew, in shepherding AB5 through the Assembly and Senate.
Through a Freedom of Information request, documents were obtained from the February 2019 Labor and Employment Committee hearings. These hearings were pivotal in supporting AB5’s passage and were supposed to include stakeholders who would be affected by the law. The documents include many letters from the various Labor Unions: some of the same unions listed in Speaker Anthony Rendon and SF Mayor Willie Brown show how capital and corruption work , part one of this two-part series.
Some were the same unions that funded Rendon’s assembly campaigns.
Other letters in support of AB5 were from Chambers of Commerce, the lobbyists of the various professions that received exemptions (doctors, lawyers, dog walkers), and the written testimony and slides of the UC Hastings Professor Veena Dubal, who has been an outspoken advocate for AB5, and an even more vociferous critic of the independent contractor model and the gig economy. What was not included in the information was testimony and commentary from actual independent contractors, freelance professionals, and gig workers. The real stakeholders who should have been consulted were never allowed at the table in the first place.
Now with the bright, shiny AB2257 exemption being held up as a fix to AB5, Public affairs, and campaign professional Rob Stutzman rightly points out:
In the wake of Buffygate, Rendon appeared to be appropriately chastised and has gotten the job done for another Legislative session. These calculated distractions were well-timed to turn the gaze away from what else Speaker Rendon is not doing.
Rendon works behind the scenes to ensure certain policies and agendas are promoted
While others are squelched. Refer back to Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s AB5 repeal efforts over the past year to get an idea of how this is done. At the same time, Rendon actively dismisses growing corruption and conflicts of interest within his own Legislative body.
This is evident in his response to a CalMatters investigative series called “Sweet Charity”. CalMatters wrote extensively about how nonprofits or special caucuses created by individual lawmakers were becoming a convenient method for the candidates and their campaigns to bypass campaign finance law.
When CalMatters spoke with Rendon, he said the affiliated nonprofits,
“‘…can provide valuable resources’ and that he has no problem with them ‘if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.’”
The problem is they are not, and the series was precise in pointing out the ethical landmines rife in these types of setups. CalMatters further explained that Rendon:
“…brushed off a report about Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda helping raise $588,000 for organizations that employed his wife — a situation that prompted an author of California’s Political Reform Act to say the law should be changed to prohibit politicians from soliciting money for groups that employ their spouses.
“‘A lot of our spouses’ employers likely do good work,’ said Rendon.”
Rendon refused to comment to CalMatters on the Fair Political Practices Commission investigation of Assemblyman Evan Low, because Low had ceased reporting donors to a nonprofit foundation affiliated with the technology caucus he chairs.
Most recently, this writer exposed District 19 Assemblyman and Budget Chair Phil Ting’s years-long extramarital affair with South African immigrant and domestic worker Carmel Foster. For four years Ting used Foster to influence the AB5 legislation and craft and promote AB2314, the private employment domestic worker legislation.
After Part 1 of the Ting – Foster expose broke, Ting issued a Twitter apology about the affair but denied it affected his legislation.
Rendon practically tripped over himself to accept Ting’s apology.
He also took to Twitter and dismissed the allegations on a “right-wing blog” as an attempt to undermine “our effort to bring greater economic justice to people”, Rendon excused this “affair”, writing it off as a “sincere apology to his constituents and colleagues”.
Rendon gave no indication that an internal investigation would be pursued to even determine whether Foster’s or Ting’s claims held any validity.
Low and Ting attachment to Biden – Harris presidential hopefuls
Conveniently, both Low and Ting appear to have attached themselves to Senator Kamala Harris’s Vice Presidential team, along with Buffygate’s Mama Wicks. So should Biden-Harris win the November election, no doubt they will all ride the new administration’s coattails to the DC Swamp.
Like Lorena Gonzalez’s District 80 (Chula Vista), Rendon’s district in Southeast Los Angeles (Lakewood-Paramount to South Gate), is lower middle class to lower class. It is also known for its low voter turnout. Those who do vote don’t appear to spend a whole lot of time investigating their candidates. Dan Walters of CalMatters writes:
“In this century alone, more than a dozen officials in cities such as Bell, Cudahy, South Gate and Lynwood have been convicted of corruption, yet the vicious cycle continues.
“Poverty, low voter involvement and a lack of civic organizations make them ripe targets for takeovers by corrupt political figures who help themselves to lavish salaries and expense accounts and hand out fat contracts to their pals.”
According to the L.A. Times, Dr. Arambula was charged in March with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child after being arrested for injuring one of his daughters.
The article stated that Arambula took a voluntary leave of absence from the assembly without pay. Rendon’s anemic response was once again geared to deflect. Per the L.A. Times article,
“For those of us who know and respect Assembly Member Arambula, we know this has been a difficult experience for him and his family,” Rendon said. “Due to the seriousness of the allegation and the need for due process, I respect his decision to take an unpaid leave from the Assembly while he addresses this charge.”
Cristina Garcia became the face and the voice of the #MeToo in the California Assembly.
Oddly enough, in 2018 she found herself under investigation for sexual harassment when at least four male legislative aides and lobbyists complained that she talked graphically in front of her subordinates, groped and propositioned them. She was also accused of lodging homophobic slurs against former Assembly Speaker John Perez, who was openly gay, on top of anti-Asian comments she made four years prior in 2014.
The woman sounds like an absolute peach, and apparently she came out of this maelstrom just as sweetly as one.
CapRadio reported that outside investigators cleared her of the groping claim, but found she used vulgar language in violation of the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.
Hews News Network reported in May that Asm. Garcia co-sponsored a bill that would place the City of Commerce’s publicly held Central Basin Municipal Water District into receivership under questionable allegations and circumstances.
The bill (SB625) would dissolve the current board of directors and cancel the November 2020 election for a new board. But according to Hews News, Garcia took money from interests who could potentially swoop up the municipality should it end up in receivership.
“Garcia wants receivership despite the fact that there are no safety issues with the water, the agency has the revenue to cover expenses, boasts $8 million in reserves and owns an $8 million building free and clear.”
Hews News did an investigation and found:
“…several campaign finance documents on FollowtheMoney.org and the California Secretary of State’s website Cal-Access[…] The investigation found that Garcia took thousands from water purveyors inside Central Basin Municipal Water’s boundaries, the same purveyors causing problems inside the agency itself.”
The investigation also found that two of the sponsors of the bill, Speaker Rendon and District 57 Assemblyman Ian Calderon, also part of the Corruption Corridor, received money from these water purveyors. Rendon received $5,600 from 2014-2016, Calderon received $6,500 from 2014-2018.
In last week’s final Legislative sessions, SB625 was sent back to Committee for further discussion, sparing Central Basin Municipal Water District from Garcia’s clutches. But the fact that Speaker Rendon sponsored the bill gives the impression that he was well aware of what Garcia was attempting, and is also complicit in her attempted shakedown.
And the beat goes on.
As for Assemblyman Ian Calderon?
Save from the whiff of malfeasance with Central Basin Municipal Water District, Rendon’s No. 2 (he is Assembly Majority Leader) appears to be walking the straight and narrow. Most news about him fawns over his being the Millennial Assemblymember. However, Calderon’s family has been knee-deep in the muck and the focus of an FBI investigation.
Ian Calderon is the son of Charles Calderon who also served in the Assembly, as did Charles’ brother Tom. Another brother, Ron Calderon, once served in the State Senate.
The Daily News reported that “A year before, Central Basin had figured in a federal corruption case against members of the Calderon family, long a powerful political presence in the region.
“State Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded guilty to mail fraud and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon pleaded guilty to money-laundering.
“After Tom Calderon left the Assembly, he started a political consulting business and one of his first clients was Central Basin, which paid him nearly $1 million over 10 years to provide “valuable insight and guidance.”
Ian Calderon does not plan to seek re-election to the Assembly, telling Politico that he will be spending more time with his family. His stepmother Lisa Calderon plans to run for his seat. Should she win, it means another corrupt political dynasty will stay embedded into the legislative process.
Speaker Rendon, on the other hand, wants to maintain his seat. If he wins this November, he will remain in office until 2024. If chosen again for the Speakership, it would make him the longest-serving Speaker since… Willie Brown.
Willie Brown the Ayatollah of the Assembly
During his Speaker tenure, Brown, used to be referred to as the “Ayatollah of the Assembly”. An apt title, as knowing the ins and outs of negotiating policy, special interests, while still pleasing your constituents is a rare gift.
While Brown and other freelance writers have been granted an exemption from some of the permutations of AB5, he told Politico that this type of incident:
“…not only showed the weaknesses in AB 5, but also in its application.
“‘If there was a place to picket organized labor, I’d do it today, if there was a place to picket a legislator, I’d do it,’ he said. As Assembly speaker, ‘I made sure that special interests, no matter who they were — labor or non-labor — did not take advantage of the Legislature,’ but he said it was clear this time was not the case.”
As a political observer, I do have to say that Brown brought finesse to his criminal process that could almost be admired. It is no doubt that finesse that allows him to continue to be the desired player in a game that delights in chewing people up and spitting them out.
Speaker Rendon’s criminality, on the other hand, reflects the gaslighting and thuggery of the Big Labor union trough from which he, his “good friend” Lorena Gonzalez, and the rest of his Corruption Corridor colleagues feed.
It is distasteful as much as it is evil, and even Willie Brown recognizes this. Sadly, none of the 4.5 million freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers have Brown’s political capital to combat the abject corruption.
This is Part 2, of a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.