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Don Perata Cleared Of Kickback Accusations

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The attorney for former California Senate leader Don Perata said Wednesday that federal prosecutors in Sacramento have decided against filing criminal charges against his client, clearing the way for Perata's campaign for Oakland mayor next year.

Perata attorney George L. O'Connell told The Associated Press that he received a letter from federal prosecutors in Sacramento saying they would not press charges.

"It's good news for us that justice has been done," O'Connell said. "To me, that is a plain indication that they have reached the same conclusion that we have been urging for five years, that Senator Perata did nothing wrong and this is not a case that should be prosecuted."

The U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment.

The decision comes 2½ months after the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco reached a similar decision in a political corruption probe that dates to 2004. FBI agents then took their case to Sacramento.

The investigation centered on whether Perata and his family benefited personally from campaign donations.

The decision ends a long-running drama that involved a man who had been among the most powerful players in California politics. A former high school civics teacher, Perata used his position as leader of the 40-member Senate to push an education-oriented agenda but also played the frequent foil to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He campaigned against the governor's successful redistricting measure in 2008 and is credited with killing Schwarzenegger's $14 billion health care overhaul in early 2008, saying it would burden taxpayers with billions in costs in just a few years. Perata's critics say he spiked the plan because he has long favored a single-payer, government-run system.

Term limits forced him from office last year.

O'Connell said Perata was unlikely to return a message seeking comment.

The investigation centered on Perata's relationship with campaign donors and whether any of that money was diverted to his family members and eventually kicked back to him, adding to his personal wealth.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco subpoenaed six years' worth of e-mails from Perata and eight staff members in 2005.

It also investigated the circle of Perata family members and associates, including his son, daughter, son-in-law and a San Francisco Bay area lobbyist, Lily Hu, a former Perata aide.

FBI agents were looking for quid pro quos from political donations to Perata and whether the former lawmaker and his family profited personally from those donations. Some firms operated by family members received payments for political consulting from Perata campaign committees.

O'Connell said the accusations were baseless and that Perata never exchanged votes for cash.

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