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California Legislature

Lobbying firm fined $4,000 for violating gift limit buying dinner for former state Sen. Ronald Calderon

Ron Calderon, shown in while still in the senate in 2014, was treated to a dinner by a lobbying firm that violated a gift limit. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
Ron Calderon, shown in while still in the senate in 2014, was treated to a dinner by a lobbying firm that violated a gift limit. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Mercury Public Affairs has agreed to pay $4,000 in fines to California's ethics watchdog agency for violating the $10 gift limit on lobbying firms when it provided dinners worth $200 to former state Sen. Ronald Calderon and his wife.

In October, Calderon was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in a public corruption case unrelated to the Mercury dinner.

The fines proposed against Mercury by the enforcement staff of the state Fair Political Practices Commission stem from violating the $10 gift limit and failing to report that Calderon’s wife also received a dinner, according to the investigative report.

Calderon and his wife attended an April 2013 dinner paid for by Mercury at Mastro’s in Beverly Hills. Also present was former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a non-lobbyist partner of Mercury, and four other unidentified people.

The violation of the state Political Reform Act was found by a random audit by the state Franchise Tax Board.

“Mercury’s $200 gift to Sen. Calderon, while not extravagant, significantly exceeded the gift limit,” the investigative report said. “A central purpose of the act is to prevent improper influence by lobbyists and the act’s strict gift limit on lobbying firms is intended to effectuate that purpose."

The commission will vote on the fines on June 29.

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