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

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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.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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