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Ethics watchdog targets two leading Assembly candidates

June 1, 2012 |  6:49 pm

The state’s ethics watchdog has opened investigations to determine whether the leading candidates for a hotly contested Southern California Assembly seat violated campaign finance laws.

The Fair Political Practices Commission launched probes last week into the campaign activities of Rudy Bermudez and Ian Calderon, two Democrats battling each other for the chance to represent the 57th Assembly District, which stretches from La Puente to La Mirada.

According to the FPPC, the campaigns and their supporters filed warring complaints, triggering the inquiries.

A Bermudez supporter filed a complaint against Calderon, who works as a legislative aide. Among the allegations was the charge that Calderon failed to report in his financial filings nearly $60,000 in consulting fees that he received from the campaign of his father, Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Whittier).

State law requires legislative staffers to report outside income.

The Times reported the payments in April. At the time, Ian Calderon acknowledged that he failed to report the money but said it was a mistake and that he amended his disclosure forms as soon as he realized the problem.

The Bermudez supporter also alleged that Charles Calderon used his own campaign account for personal use and continued to use the account after his last election, in violation of campaign finance laws.

Charles Calderon could not be reached for comment. He told the Orange County Register on Friday that the complaint was politically motivated.

Ian Calderon’s campaign manager, Leslie Rodriguez, countered with her own complaint against Bermudez, a former assemblyman. She charged that Bermudez, his campaign staff and his supporters conspired to launder $50,000 in campaign contributions through a series of organizations to circumvent contribution limits.

In a brief interview, Bermudez said that he could not comment on the investigation since he had not received any word of it from the FPPC or seen the initial complaint. He did, however, say that his campaign had returned three checks that were “in question,” totaling $11,700.

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-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Twitter.com/mjmishak

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