Appearances Matter in Politics, Especially When You're Under Investigation

Photo: Courtesy Office of Senator Ronald Calderon

Here is another entry for the "politicians exercising questionable judgment" file cabinet, which, unfortunately, continues to fill up on a daily basis.

California State Senator Ronald Calderon is the subject of a federal corruption investigation. Let that sentence linger for a moment, shall we? Calderon is a public servant; by definition he should be serving the public, in this case his constituents. His first responsibility is to represent those in his state senate district. But there is now some question as to whether he is doing that, or whether he used his office for personal gain.

In this situation it would behoove any representative to be particularly thoughtful and careful, to attempt to make decisions which give no fodder to an already-distrustful public. Unfortunately, Calderon appears not to have done that.

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Calderon has chosen another scandal-plagued individual, former Bell Gardens City Councilman Mario Beltran, to be the public face of Calderon's office. Beltran is his chief spokesperson. Beltran served on the Bell Gardens city council. He pleaded guilty to misusing campaign money and was convicted of filing a false police report.

Let's assume, because we must, that Calderon is innocent until proven guilty. Let's also take Beltran at his word that he is a changed man and assume he reformed. And let's do more than that. Let's believe, as I do, that people can change and mature, and therefore deserve second chances. The question still remains, is it wise for someone Calderon's position pick someone with Beltran's history to represent him when the public already looks at their representatives with a wary eye? Appearances matter in politics.

State Senator Calderon, was Beltran really the best person you could find for the job? It takes a certain level of hubris for a politician who is subject to a corruption investigation to hire a politician who pleaded guilty of musing funds and lying to police.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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