House Dems want Perata probe leaks plugged

The Los Angeles Times reported today that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and committee members Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, wrote a letter July 31 to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking that he investigate information leaks from the long-running and oft-publicized grand jury investigation of state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

I just obtained a copy of the letter myself…

“The timing of these leaks is particularly curious, given that Senator Perata is serving his final, and most critical, year in the Senate and is one of the most prominent elected officials in state office. Senator Perata is playing a key role in negotiating a solution to one of the largest budget crises in California’s history.

“We ask that the Department of Justice take this matter seriously and open an investigation. In so doing, we do not take a position on the underlying investigation of Senator Perata, but we strongly urge that you take steps to ensure that whatever actions the Department of Justice feels it should take based on the facts are untainted by illegal leaks or whispering campaigns.”

Sanchez chairs the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, and Lofrgen chairs the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Subcommittee.

I spoke this evening with Josh Eaton, spokesman for the Northern California U.S. Attorney’s office, and Special Agent Joseph Schadler, spokesman for the FBI’s San Francisco Field Division; neither would comment on the letter (because, I suppose, even formally confirming the existence of such an investigation could be construed as exactly the type of leak the letter aims to plug). I left a message for Perata spokesman Jason Kinney; I’ll update if he calls me back.

UPDATE @ 7:10 P.M. TUESDAY — “Given the Bush Administration’s well-documented politicization of the Justice Department, it doesn’t surprise me Congressional leaders would be interested in learning more behind the timing and motive of these leaks,” Kinney just told me. “I think it’s perfectly appropriate that they ask some tough questions.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.