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Combat sports regulation could be impacted by NY & California political scandals

By Zach Arnold | June 5, 2013

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Last week, the New York Daily News ran with a headline that doomed any hope of New York state passing Mixed Martial Arts legislation: Push to legalize mixed martial arts threatened by Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal

To make a long story short, New York state Assembly boss Sheldon Silver allowed a settlement to take place between two women and Lopez over sexual harassment charges. Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat, quit after he was named in investigations for bad behavior towards other women.

Silver and other top state Democrats have said that the sex scandal with Lopez has made powerful female politicians & political activists angry and that this same constituency is the most vocal in blocking support of MMA legislation in New York. On Monday, Silver was confronted by Anthony Bourdain’s wife in regards to how many women support MMA in comparison to those who oppose it. Silver told the press that if they want to support MMA in New York, they can — by watching it on television.

Silver is now using the ‘angry female card’ to hide behind putting MMA legislation on the floor. It’s no surprise. As long as Silver is in power in Albany, MMA legislation will never make it to the floor for a vote. The faster UFC recognizes this political reality, the more money they will save in terms of lobbying in the state. But will Zuffa have to wait much longer for Silver’s departure?

How concerned are New York Democrats in maintaining their lock on the female vote? Andrew Cuomo is ready to roll out a ’10 point plan’ to ‘strengthen women’s rights’ all while defending Sheldon Silver and maintaining that Silver did nothing wrong in how the Vito Lopez sex scandal situation was handled.

Right as Cuomo was defending Silver, the New York Daily News came out with this report: Damning email omitted from Vito Lopez sexual harassment report suggests Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had inappropriate relationship with top aide

The email, obtained by The News, claims Lopez “repeatedly” told one of the women “that he wanted their relationship to be the same as Mr. Silver’s to his Chief of Staff and was explicit in what that meant.”

The email also claims that the groping victims were so afraid of Silver and his chummy relationship with Lopez — and so upset that the Assembly had failed to “fully investigate” their allegations — that they declined an offer to take another job in the Assembly.

This development is ratcheting up the pressure significantly on Silver to resign from his position as Assembly leader. The New York Daily News and NY Post are having a field day. If he were to resign, the doors would officially swing wide open for MMA legislation to make it to the Assembly floor for a yes-or-no vote.

According to The New York Times, a recent Quinnipiac poll suggests that more than half of New York state voters wants Silver to resign.

The majority of fight fans do not realize just how much power these kinds of politicians have when it comes to regulating combat sports. One politician, on a whim, can make a decision that impacts the business in a negative manner. And, as we have seen in California, politicians not only interfere in combat sports regulation but often insert their political cronies to screw over good people and to give political cover to whose who use governmental resources to ruin the lives of those they choose to destroy.

As I’ve painstakingly demonstrated in a year’s worth of articles regarding the California State Athletic Commission, it is the biggest players in the California Democratic Party through their behemoth of a bureaucratic proxy (the Department of Consumer Affairs) that have railroaded innocent people and rewarded those who have performed illegal acts when it comes to regulating combat sports in the state. When I say the biggest politicians, I truly mean it. Darrell Steinberg is as powerful in California as Sheldon Silver is in New York. Aides, lobbyists, and friends who work in both the state Assembly and Senate often find themselves somehow tied to the Department of Consumer Affairs. It is DCA’s control over the California State Athletic Commission that has created a politically toxic environment, one where those left to clean up political messes are entirely overworked, understaffed, and stripped of resources. It’s a zero-sum game.

When the Department of Consumer Affairs picked Andy Foster from Georgia’s athletic commission to take over the California scene, the move allowed the state Senate and Assembly to create a bill to prevent the commission from being sunsetted. However, the politicians are only giving a two year time frame before the commission is under legislative review again for sunsetting. Sunsetting simply means that commission affairs would be hidden in private at Consumer Affairs and there would be no transparency whatsoever.

For the new sunset bill in the state legislature, there are three prominent names attached to the bill in terms of authorship. The first name is state Senator Curren Price, an ally of CSAC Chairman John Frierson. Frierson has been an ally of Governor Jerry Brown for more than four decades. The second name is Luis Alejo. Alejo is the man who tried to pass AB2100 last year, which would have created a watered-down state version of the Ali Act for MMA contracts. The third name is Ian Calderon. Ian’s family is getting a lot of publicity for the wrong reasons this week.

Chris Megerian/Los Angeles Times picture of Ron Calderon’s office being raided by FBI

Ian Calderon is a young hotshot in the state Assembly. His father is Charles Calderon. Ian’s uncle is Ron Calderon. The Calderons have been a political institution in Southern California. Yesterday, the FBI raided the offices of Ron Calderon and the old offices of the Latino Legislative Caucus at the state Capitol. The LA Times claims that the FBI raid is part of a larger corruption scandal in Southern California that could damage the Calderon family’s chances for political survival. As the Sacramento Bee points out, state Democrats are scrambling to figure out how to react. Celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos is now involved in defending Ron Calderon.

The Calderon family has been involved in politics for decades and has access to huge influence and cash resources. As this profile of Ian Calderon in The Los Angeles Times points out, he’s benefited from his father’s connections and political donors.

Although Ian Calderon worked on some of his father’s campaigns, he concedes that politics is a recent interest. He sought to make his professional mark elsewhere. After graduating from Cal State Long Beach in 2009, he was a marketing manager for a company that sponsored his college surfing career, and also formed a talent agency to represent athletes.

The Sacramento Bee, last year, put it more bluntly:

More than half of Ian Calderon’s largest contributors through March 17 – 13 of 22 donors of $3,900 or more – were previous donors to his father, records show.

“They’re not donating to (Ian) necessarily, they’re donating to the family,” said Bob Stern, an attorney and political analyst.

Ian is co-author to Senate Bill 309, which is the CSAC sunset bill. It has cleared the state Senate and is now in the state Assembly. The bill contains some dramatic changes to the way the California State Athletic Commission will be able to do business. One provision would allow CSAC to outsource training to third parties, which means private businesses.

Existing law prohibits a referee or physician and surgeon from being assigned to a boxing contest if he or she has not participated in a clinic sponsored by the commission. Existing law authorizes the commission to pay any necessary and authorizes travel expenses of referees and physicians and surgeons who attend such clinics.

This bill would delete that payment authorization and would authorize the commission to contract with a 3rd party to conduct a clinic. The bill would authorize a 3rd party to charge attendees a reasonable fee, as specified.

There are two ways to look at this provision. One side of the coin says that this is a good development in terms of trying to get officials trained properly and to work with private industry that has knowledge in the field. The other side of the coin is that this is an attempt to put even more power on the side of the bureaucrats to tell officials that if they don’t go along with the pay-for-play program by working with those the state government has deemed worthy of being rewarded, then you won’t get work at fight shows.

However, there’s one other provision that will prove to be quite controversial in regards to transparency and just what Sacramento thinks of all of you. I call it their “fuck you” provision.

Existing law requires the commission, at its regularly scheduled meetings, to invite testimony from boxing stakeholders to identify actions that may lead to greater opportunities for its licensees to participate in major professional championship boxing contests in the state. Existing law requires the commission to annually make recommendations, based on that testimony, to the Governor and the Legislature.

This bill would delete that recommendation requirement.

In other words, the commission would no longer have to communicate with the legislature if the public raises serious issues at commission meetings. At first blush, the passage looks mundane but what it says politically is rather striking.

There’s a reason I raise this point to you for consumption: politicians like Ian Calderon and Sheldon Silver are the type of people who are making decisions that impact the way combat sports are regulated. They have no experience in the fight business and yet they love getting involved in controlling the politics of it. Why? Power. It’s a weapon. It’s a tool. It’s a way to exercise authority.

A final twist

When the FBI raided Ron Calderon’s office yesterday, they also raided the old office of the Latino Legislative Caucus. The chairman of that caucus is state Senate Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens. The Sacramento Bee would like you to know how much cash the Fertitta family is spreading around to California politicians:

More recently, Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who is chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus, canceled a Las Vegas fundraiser for himself and the Latino Caucus Leadership PAC. The event was to be hosted by Station Casinos, which has been lobbying the Legislature to approve a gambling compact for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.

Bad timing, I suppose. This is why it is critical to follow the politics and the money when it comes to regulation of combat sports. The power brokers count on you falling asleep and not paying attention. They don’t want you to connect the dots and figure out that they are the ones enabling all the corruption & nonsensical business decisions that influence combat sports regulation. You may not care about what’s going on but the UFC sure does. Time to pay attention to what the politicians and Zuffa are doing behind-the-scenes.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “Combat sports regulation could be impacted by NY & California political scandals”

  1. Jon says:

    Silver and company are meeting next week (behind closed doors, but nevertheless) to judge whether there’s enough support to bring the MMA bill to the floor for a vote.

    Simple math would suggest it’s impossible not for there to be support (64 sponsors of the bill, needing only 12 more to pass it among the 86 remaining in the NY Assembly).

    But it’s Silver, so there’s no logic involved.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    It passed in CT today….

    In all of Canada & the USA…. New York is the only location that MMA is still illegal. Pure corruption!!

  3. […] The good news is that a sexual harassment scandal seems to be expanding and may engulf Silver. Fight Opinion has an excellent breakdown of all […]

  4. RST says:

    I would have thought that sheldon buddy getting popped for being a pervert (as if that should be a surprise) and sheldon protecting him would have been an opportunity to get Sheldon out of the way.

    But some peoples agendas have nothing to do with realities or evidence. Those are only the messy details. Cant we just build a wall around new york? Landmine all the escape routes. That would be tax dollars well spent for a change.

    • RST says:

      BTW: So now Bonnar is in the my favorite employee club? Its really becoming difficult to pinpoint exactly how zuffa really feels about steroid abuse. Do they love it a lot, or a hell of a lot?

  5. BrothersGottaAndyHug says:

    Great work Zach. The power that Silver has is disgusting. This is insane that he will simply ignore the overwhelming support for MMA…..again. This is so depressing and upsetting. Over 8,000 americans died in the Revolutionary War in order to prevent 1 man from having all the power. ~240 years later, where are we?

  6. Nepal says:

    Off topic, but there is MMA in Thailand again.

    The Thai sports governing body, which is way more corrupt than even the Olympics only approve boxing and no other fighting sport.


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