SACRAMENTO >> In a move some called “ironic,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has appointed Assemblyman Ian Calderon to the California Film Commission, the same board that his uncle, former state Sen. Ron Calderon, was removed from after a report surfaced that he had solicited bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film producer.
Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, later plead guilty to one count of mail fraud that included accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as independent filmmakers who wanted changes to California’s Film Tax Credit program. Calderon was sentenced in October 2016 to 3 1/2 years in federal prison.
Gil Aguirre, a San Gabriel Valley open-government activist, called the appointment political payback.
“They’re keeping the family legacy going,” he said. “Ironic is a good way to think about it. It’s as if they’re snubbing our interests. They’re taking an individual from a family that has had a history of problems with the commission. Two of his (uncles) were convicted of corruption.”
Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, D-Montebello, in October 2016 was sentenced to a year in federal prison for money laundering – he hid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes paid to Ron Calderon.
However, Josh Cook, adjunct instructor in the USC Price School of Public Policy, said Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, is a good fit for the commission.
“I don’t see anything nefarious in this,” Cook said.
‘It’s a real match. He’s been involved in the industry, especially the tax credits,” said Cook, referring to the state’s film and television tax credit program that can vary from $100 million to $330 million annually.
Son of state legislator
Calderon, 31, of Whittier is the son of Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, who served in the state Legislature for 22 years.
Calderon, who was first elected in 2012, represents a district that stretches from Norwalk and La Mirada, north through Whittier to La Puente and is bordered by Orange County and mostly the 605 Freeway. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Now Assembly Majority leader, Calderon served three years as chair of the Assembly’s committee on arts and entertainment issues and in 2014 helped push the new film tax credit program.
What the commission does
The commission administers the film tax credit program. It recently awarded $100 million in tax credits to 22 projects. It also issues permits for filming at state-owned properties, has an extensive digital location library and helps with location assistance.
The commission does an important job, said Film Commissioner Thom Davis, business agent for International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 80.
“If you didn’t have the commission, how would you coordinate all of the filming activities that take place on state property?” asked Davis. “There would be no one to work with the (state) Parks Department and the other governmental agencies.”
Davis defended the appointment of Ian Calderon.
“They’re two different people,” he said. “Just because you have a relative who broke the law, doesn’t mean you have the same problem.”
Calderon supports tax credits
Calderon supports the tax credit program, according to a statement from his office.
“The film industry is part of the fabric and identity of our state, and the work of the commission is vital to strengthening and enhancing our state’s economy,” he said.
He will be one of 15 members of the unpaid board that was established in 1984, most of whom are appointed by the governor. He also is one of two legislators on the commission. The second is state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who didn’t respond to a request for an interview.
However, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, who left the commission after he was elected to the Senate last year, congratulated Calderon in a statement.
“I’m happy a fellow legislator will get the opportunity to do this important work,” Portantino said.
Not everyone is sure that Calderon received the appointment because of his expertise.
How are appointments made?
“(Appointments) are based on friendship or political relationships,” said former Assemblyman Robert Pacheco, R-Walnut. “That’s kind of the way it works.”
In an email, Kevin Liao, spokesman for Rendon, D-South Gate, defended the appointment.
“Speaker Rendon looked at Mr. Calderon’s experience and leadership,” Liao wrote. “That’s all that was necessary to consider.”
Rendon called Calderon “exceptionally qualified” to serve on the California Film Commission given his work to extend and reconstitute the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program.
“I’m confident he will do an excellent job as a liaison between state government and California’s vital film industry,” Rendon wrote.
However, Montebello Councilman Bill Molinari questioned the appointment.
“Why would they put (Ian Calderon) in a position like that?” Molinari asked. “It seems unwise, given what happened to his uncle.”
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