California’s Top Democrat Blames Bush (or Somebody) for His Likely Indictment

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


perata.jpg

If California state Senate boss Don Perata gets indicted on federal corruption charges, it’s the president’s fault. Never mind that the feds have been investigating Perata for nearly five years, and muckraking reporters have dug up a treasure trove of dubious deeds on the part of the state’s second most powerful pol (after The Governator). But Perata isn’t ready to go quietly. He and his pals at the state Democratic Party, which just a week ago added $250,000 to the embattled senator’s legal defense fund (the fund has spent more than $1.9 million to date), now are suggesting the White House is persecuting Perata.

On July 9, the East Bay Express, a weekly in Perata’s Oakland district (disclosure: I used to be its managing editor), revealed that the lengthy probe of Perata and his associates was coming to a close, and that the senator would likely be indicted soon. Responding to the report today, Perata told a local TV reporter, “My own belief is nobody goes after a ranking Democrat in California unless permission has been given from on high.”

“That would be the president?” asked NBC11’s Mike Leury.

“Somebody,” Perata replied.

Also today, a state party spokesman defended the donation to Perata’s defense fund, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, “This is a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney going after one of our elected leaders.”

This is one conspiracy theory that simply isn’t going to fly. Most local reporters I know, in fact, have periodically wondered why the feds have been so slow to indict.

Once a public school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Alameda, Perata has spent nearly a decade in the state Senate (he’ll term out at year’s end), where he’s widely known as a kingmaker with the clout to put loyal minions in office and crush those pols who thwart his will. (Some history here.)

Key to his power is his deft manipulation of campaign funding. Running as a powerful Democrat in a safe district, Perata rarely had a serious challenger, and yet raked in millions for his re-election coffers and other campaign committees, spending vast sums to wine and dine his friends and top donors, not to mention elevate the wealth and status of one political consultant named Sandra Polka.

His past financial dealings, particularly those involving a local lobbyist named Lily Hu, Perata’s buddy Tim Staples, and his son Nick Perata, have simply reeked of possible kickbacks (there’s a good synapsis here), although that will be for the federal grand jury to decide. Big W is culpable for many things, but this sure ain’t one of them.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate