Senate President pro tem Don Perata flashed a show of power Monday by locking three moderate Democratic senators out of their offices after they attended a fundraiser last week. The Oakland Democrat apparently was irked that the three Southern California lawmakers – Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello, Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Montclair and Lou Correa of Garden Grove – attended a dinner in Sacramento held by pro-business Assembly Democrats who call themselves the “Mod Squad.” Senate Democrats have an unwritten rule forbidding members from joining caucuses except those reflecting gender, geography or ethnicity – such as the Latino or rural caucuses – mostly as a way to keep lawmakers from forming voting blocs that could hinder the party’s agenda. Perata would not comment, saying he wanted to keep the issue confined to those concerned. But the sergeant at arms, Tony Beard, confirmed that he’d had the locks changed on all three members’ office doors. By the end of the day, two of the three locked-out senators had received new keys and were back in their offices. “It’s a matter among members,” Perata said, “… nothing more than that.” But it was clear that Perata sought to send a signal to lawmakers who might be hoping to assert themselves as a voting bloc challenging Perata’s leadership or agenda: They could find themselves out in the cold. All three were part of the Assembly’s moderate caucus in the past legislative session, and were responsible for killing a number of pro-consumer Senate bills they saw as harmful to business. “They’re now in the Senate,” Perata said. Getting things done is hard enough, said John Burton, Perata’s predecessor as Senate leader, without having to worry about a group of lawmakers challenging the leadership. “Don’s probably sending a message, that you’re either a team player with the Democrats, or go get an office in the Esquire building with the Chamber of Commerce,” Burton said. But one staffer said it was an overreaction to an innocent gathering. “There’s not an organized bloc and they’re not meeting in private,” said the staffer, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid antagonizing Perata. “That’s why we’re all scratching our heads.” Calderon said he’d ordered new locks on his door earlier this year, so he wasn’t surprised to find the doors locked Monday. He had no idea he’d been locked out as a punishment for meeting with other pro-business Democrats. “There’s nothing going on with the moderate caucus in the Senate, so I don’t know why he did this,” he said. “I’ve never been admonished about a moderate caucus. Perata would never tell us we can’t join a caucus.” Negrete-McLeod’s staff members were able to get back into their office by late Monday morning, said her chief of staff, Don Wilcox. Correa’s office was the only one still locked by the end of the business day Monday, likely because he had yet to meet with Perata. He said he was scheduled to meet with Perata following the afternoon session. The only member of the Senate moderates who didn’t attend the fundraiser was Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, who said he hadn’t heard about the lock-out. He also said he was unaware of a ban on vote-bloc caucuses. Some observers say Padilla has already paid for trying to assert himself among Senate Democrats. When Padilla’s name surfaced as a potential challenger to Perata’s leadership post, Perata withheld committee chairmanships from him, assigning him to the rules committee – seated very close to Perata, who happens to be the chairman. [email protected] (916) 441-2101160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!