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Three Suspended California Senators Receiving Donations to Legal Defense Funds

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Summary: Three senators in the state of California are seeing their legal defense funds balloon due to the lack of laws governing donations made to such funds. 

The amount of money political candidates in the state of California can collect for campaigns is tightly governed, but for legal defense funds, donors are permitted to donate much more, according to KPCC.

  
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In March, the state senate, voted to suspend three members who were charged or who were convicted of felonies. The legal bills for senators Ron Calderon and Rod Wright are being paid for by a mix of politicians, political action committees and even corporations. Senator Leland Yee has a committee to college legal defense donations working for him as well.

None of the legal defense funds setup will be subject to donation limits under state law so long as the donation amounts are not too much higher than the estimated costs for defense.

Wright has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Wednesday on charges of perjury and voting fraud that center around him living outside of his district. His legal defense fund has accumulated $150,000. The majority of the money came from industries regulated by the state, such as casinos, insurance, energy, teachers, telecommunications and metals.

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PG&E was one of the biggest donors to the legal funds of the suspended senators. In August and December of 2013, Wright’s fund received donations of $10,000. Wright was indicted in 2010 and convicted in January of this year.

Calderon’s legal fund received $7,500 from PG&E in July and December of 2013. The legal defense fund for Calderon has raised more than $38,000. He has been accused of taking bribes. Calderon was indicted in February of this year.



In July of 2013, Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, gave Calderon a donation of $5,000.

“Once suspended, we stopped all contributions,” said PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo. “We have decided not to contribute to such funds in the future.”

Yee was accused of bribery as well. There is a legal defense fund for Yee, but no papers have been filed that reveal the donors to the fund.

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