Friday, December 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Scandals plague Democrats in Sacramento

Leland Yee

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco dodges the media as he leaves the San Francisco Federal Building on Wednesday, after the FBI filed a 137-page affidavit outlining a detailed corruption case against him. AP photo

By
From page A2 | March 27, 2014 |

SACRAMENTO (AP) — So far in 2014, each month has brought news of another arrest or conviction of a Democratic California state senator. The separate investigations culminated Wednesday in the arrest of Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco on federal corruption charges that roiled the capital, leading one of Yee’s opponents in the race for secretary of state to call the Legislature a “corrupt institution.”

Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and should be flying into election season this year, easily passing legislation and setting the agenda after taming California’s busted budgets and turning their Republican rivals into a “superminority” in the nation’s most populous state.

But now their dominance could be dampened by new revelations of dirty dealings by Democrats in the state Senate. One senator was convicted of voter fraud and perjury, and two others face federal charges for alleged misdeeds that include accepting large financial bribes for friends and family in exchange for legislation and orchestrating weapons and drug trafficking to help pay off campaign debts.

On Wednesday, the Democratic leader of the Senate, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, called a news conference at his Capitol office, flanked by 14 other Democratic senators as he called on Yee to resign or face suspension by his colleagues, saying “he cannot come back.”

“I know what people are thinking. This is the third incident the Senate has had to deal with,” an emotional Steinberg said. “We are going to do everything in our power to uphold the integrity of the Senate and do the people’s business and still have a great and productive year.”

Yee had been best known publicly for his efforts to promote government transparency and public records, for which he was celebrated just last week by the Society of Professional Journalists. He also introduced several bills last year to restrict gun possession. The federal affidavit unsealed Wednesday accuses Yee of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms.

Republicans, who have been struggling to regain their political footing, have sought to capitalize on the never-ending wave of criminal charges as a way to undo Democrats’ dominance in the Legislature. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly tried to expel Sen. Rod Wright of Inglewood after he was convicted of perjury and voter fraud in January for lying about his legal residence in Los Angeles County. Democratic leaders have blocked those efforts, though.

Wright and Sen. Ron Calderon, who was indicted on federal corruption charges in February, are on voluntary paid leave from the Legislature. Prosecutors say Calderon accepted about $100,000 for himself and family members in exchange for promoting legislation to expand Hollywood tax credits and protect the interest of a hospital that benefited from a provision of the workers’ compensation law.

Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine who has led the expulsion efforts, blamed Democratic leaders for creating a culture of tolerance for illegal activity.

“If you refuse to act and you shirk your responsibility to act, is it a surprise that senators don’t take ethics as seriously as they should?” Anderson said.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in an interview outside his Senate office on Wednesday that the allegations reflect poorly on all lawmakers, not just Democrats.

“We all get painted in the same brush,” he said. “The problem is manifesting itself, but people hold us all to the same standards.”

Yee’s arrest also comes at the height of fundraising season as lawmakers are introducing bills and holding hearings on them in the Legislature. On most weeknights at this time of year, lawmakers and lobbyists scuttle between bars and restaurants in downtown Sacramento, where they shake hands and collect checks for their next political race. Lobbyists are not supposed to discuss pending legislation with lawmakers at such events.

Two of Yee’s opponents in the race for secretary of state used his arrest to draw attention to their calls for broader political reforms. The secretary of state’s office oversees California elections and campaign-finance reporting.

Derek Cressman, a Democrat and former director of the good government group Common Cause who seeks strict limits on contributions and more disclosure about donors, said Wednesday’s arrest is clearly part of a broader pattern in the capital. He called the Legislature corrupt.

“The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person’s soul, and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all,” he said, adding that the bar for public office “should be higher than the bar for staying out of prison.”

Dan Schnur, another secretary of state candidate who has called for a ban on fundraising during budget season, said Yee’s arrest is a reminder of why Californians have so little trust in their elected officials. He said he hoped it would “prompt the Legislature to take much more aggressive and meaningful action to fix a broken political system than they have been willing to do to date.”

Steinberg was asked Wednesday about whether further political reforms would help, but he was skeptical they would do much.

“We will continue looking to do whatever is necessary. But gun running?” Steinberg said. “There’s no ethics reform that I am aware of to address, you know, that kind of allegation.”

————

By Juliet Williams. Associated Press writers Judy Lin and Fenit Nirappil also contributed to this report.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

UCD, UC team up to study effects of climate change

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Teens’ goal? Helping other soccer players around the world

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Konditorei presents free holiday concert

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Welcome 2015 with Mumbo Gumbo at a gala bash

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Luminaria display planned in West Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Creative women share food, friendship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Blue Christmas service planned at Davis churches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Willett bench is a labor of love

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

Author! Author! UCD hosts talks, Q and A on Asia-focused books

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
See diving ducks at city wetlands tour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Libraries will be closed around the holidays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Downtown gift cards get a new perk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

 
Nobel Prize winner will discuss research related to autism

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

A home for the holidays?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Explorit: Experience nano this spring

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Supplies collected for victims of abuse

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Grandmothers support group meets weekly

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Forum

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

 
Cheers and Jeers: Have you ever seen the rain?

By Our View | From Page: A14

Defeating Ebola involves medicine, and prayers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14 | Gallery

 
Kudos to Central Park Gardens donors and volunteers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

.

Sports

Lady Blue Devils rout an undefeated Liberty squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
UCD RB coach Wright heads to Florida; what next?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Aggies nab junior college defensive lineman

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Cousins is back in lineup but Kings fall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devil boys hold off scrappy Rio Linda

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Nostra-Dunning makes his 2014 bowl picks

By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

Tennyson’s first goal is the difference in Sharks win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Features

Name droppers: Trio elected to academy of inventors

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Arts

 
DMTC announces auditions for ‘Sweeney Todd’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
‘Before Midnight’ screening is tonight

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
DMTC plans New Year’s Eve party

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

Tom Rigney and Flambeau to play

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
.

Business

After 19 years, Alfa Romeo returns

By Ann M. Job | From Page: A16

 
.

Obituaries

Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Comics