The Calderon Affair

The Calderon affair just got messier – and the spotlight on state government just got harsher – but lost in the drama could be the promise of innocent until proven otherwise.

Senator Ron Calderon is now accusing the FBI of seeking revenge against him for allegedly not cooperating in an investigation of the state senate and other senators. Such legal filings crank the gossip machine without any charges being made against anybody — Calderon included.

If it is proved that Senator Calderon sold his vote or position as alleged in a leaked FBI affidavit then hang him (metaphorically, of course.) But until anything is proved, this rush to judgment must be contained to protect the rights and reputations of all the senators so far tagged in this story — Calderon included.

Part of the responsibility for the situation is the fact that the accusatory affidavit got out prematurely before the investigation was concluded.

If charges were filed then a call for Calderon’s resignation would make more sense. Certainly, his abilities to do his job would be compromised. That’s not to say that the revealed affidavit makes things difficult for him to do his job now.

Those arguing that Calderon should resign say that the cloud over his head will prevent him from adequately representing his constituents. Indeed, the leaked document prompted the Senate Rules Committee to relieve Calderon of his committee assignments.

It is certainly difficult for the legislature to operate as if the leaked affidavit did not exist. It is also understandable that those working with Senator Calderon may want to take a step back to prevent being painted with the same brush. Calderon’s new filing yesterday wielded that brush anew.

However, if crying wolf with no formal charge attached can blackball a member of the legislature then the door to mischief is open. It is incumbent on the U.S. Attorney to quickly reach a conclusion to either file charges or close the case or, better yet, offer light to the charges and countercharges before more reputations are bruised or buried.

I hold no brief for Calderon and if he acted as the leaked affidavit alleges, he should be punished. But I do hold for the presumption of innocence in our judicial system. That can be lost when the prosecutor is unsubstantiated gossip.

While Californians should be rightly concerned about official corruption undermining their government and demand appropriate action when cases are proved, they must also be vigilant protecting due process.

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Originally published on Fox and Hounds.)