#CApolitics: Third state senator (D) arrested on corruption charges

March 26, 2014
Not smiling now, I bet.

Not smiling now, I bet.

Earth-shaking news in California politics broke this morning with word of the arrest of State Senator Leland Yee (D, SD-8) on charges of public corruption, including soliciting donations beyond the allowed limits in return for legislative services and –ahem!– firearms trafficking. You can read the indictment (PDF) via the NBC BayArea site (1). From their article on the arrest:

California state Sen. Leland Yee was arrested on public corruption charges as part of several arrests made by the FBI Wednesday morning during a massive FBI sting, the FBI told NBC Bay Area.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said that Yee and current Chee Kung Tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow were among 26 defendants charged in a federal criminal complaint.

Yee and Chow were arraigned before Federal Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins in San Francisco this afternoon.

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, was unsealed in San Francisco Wednesday, charging the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, announced Haagm FBI special agent David Johnson and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.

Yee was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Chow’s charges include money laundering and conspiracy to trafficking contraband cigarettes.

From what I gather from skimming the indictment, Yee stands accused of soliciting bribes both to retire his debt from his failed mayoral run in San Francisco and to fund his current campaign for Secretary of State. He is also accused of offering to facilitate an arms deal through New Jersey between a dealer Yee knew and “UCE 4599,” an unidentified FBI undercover agent… in return for a “donation.”

The connection between Senator Yee and “Shrimp Boy” Chow seems to be Keith Jackson, a well-known Bay Area political consultant and associate of Yee. Chow, who has a long record and has been under investigation for years, introduced UCE 4599 to Jackson, who then apparently started supplying weapons for UCE 4599’s “associates” to guard their (imaginary) marijuana farms in Northern California. Jackson and others also apparently ran their own drug ring and even attempted to solicit murder-for-hire. Jackson was also Yee’s money-maker for the illegal donations.

There is no accusation that Senator Yee had anything to do with drugs or murder-for-hire, but, still, he sure keeps nice company.

Aside from the organized crime drama and political corruption, this has serious implications for the Democrats in California. Yee is the third state senator (2), all Democrats, to be indicted or convicted in the last several months. Senator Roderick Wright was convicted of felony voter fraud in January, while Senator Ron Calderon was indicted for corruption in February.

Since the 2012 election, Democrats have held a supermajority in the California legislature, controlling both chambers with two-thirds majorities. Under the state constitution, that gave them the power to do pretty much whatever they wanted: pass irresponsible budgets, fund wasteful programs to their heart’s content, you name it. The Republicans were bystanders, and it didn’t look like they’d have any power any time soon.

Then the majority started crumbling in the state senate. First came Andy Vidak’s (R-SD26) surprise victory in a 2013 special election, then the conviction of Wright and the indictment of Calderon. That last broke the supermajority in the senate, and now Yee’s troubles (3) deepens the hole they’re in. Now, at least, the Democrats have to actually deal with the Republican senate caucus, if they want to get anything done. This means Proposition 13, the measure that protects homeowners from exorbitant property taxes and mandates a 2/3rds majority to raise taxes, making it a prime Democrat target, is safe for a while. The Democrats are likely to regain those seats, given the districts, but a smart Republican or independent candidate might make some populist hay running on a clean government platform. We’ll see.

From a larger view, this is what happens in a state when a party overwhelmingly dominates for too long: without credible opposition, legislators and other government officials come to feel entitled, become complacent, and think of themselves as rulers, not employees subject to the audit of the people. Corruption sets in. California has long been dominated by the Democrats (in the legislature, for decades), but a conservative friend in a long-time Red state has voiced similar complaints. It shows the problems that can set in when a strong two-party system withers to one.

One hopes that revelations such as Senator Yee’s purported activities will lead to soul-searching among the Democrats (4) and the rise of good conservative candidates in more areas to help redress the balance.

For the sake of California’s political health, we need both.

RELATED: More from the San Jose Mercury News.

PS: Did you know Yee once sponsored a measure to require state buildings to be designed according to Chinese Feng Shui principles? There’s a reason we’re called “Crazyfornia.”

Footnotes:
(1) And kudos to them for linking to a primary source. Too few online MSM outlets do that.
(2) But not the last, I bet.
(3) Because Senate President Steinberg (D) is desperate to keep those seats in Democrat hands, rather than risk a special election, Wright and Calderon have been allowed to go on “paid leave,” rather than being expelled. Yes, they still draw a salary, but at least they can’t vote. I’m sure Yee will be shown the same “courtesy.”
(4) Oh, stop laughing. It could happen. Maybe.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Corrupt Crony to replace Hillary at State?

December 27, 2010

Allahpundit brings us the rumor du jour, that outgoing New Mexico governor Bill Richardson may be on deck to replace Secretary of State Clinton:

This is one of those rumors, I think, that starts hopping simply because it makes sense, not because there’s any hard evidence to support it. Although there is plenty of circumstantial evidence: Richardson was just in Pyongyang to sound out North Korea about its nuclear program; he was a leading candidate for SoS back in 2008 before Hillary got the job; he has foreign policy experience, having served as Clinton’s ambassador to the UN in the 1990s; his term as governor of New Mexico ends in a week; and, of course, there’s been lots of buzz lately about The One shaking up his staff, with Axelrod and Bob Gates sure to depart this year and Gibbs likely to go too. Hillary and Gates also work famously well together, so maybe Obama’s thinking that if he’s leaving soon, it’s best to just replace the whole team and bring in a new SecDef and SecState all at once. And don’t forget that Richardson threw Obama a major bone by endorsing him in March 2008, a betrayal that stunned Team Clinton. The One owes him.

AP then covers the politics of the situation with his usual perspicacity; be sure to read his post. To my mind, it wouldn’t be an unreasonable change, in the context of this administration and the people involved: Hillary’s been giving signals that she wants to retire, and Richardson is more of a dove, making him more in tune with The One’s foreign policy instincts.

But Richardson has another qualification for the Cabinet besides being owed by Obama and a foreign policy softy — corruption. In 2008-09, Governor Richardson was under federal investigation in a pay-to-play scheme, as Michelle Malkin detailed in her Culture of Corruption:

The feds had been digging into a nationwide web of favor-trading between financial firms and politicians overseeing local government bond markets. CDR was tied to a doomed bond deal in Alabama which, according to Bloomberg News, threatened to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. CDR raked in nearly $1.5 million in fees from a New Mexico state financial agency after donating more than $100,000 to Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and to pay for expenses at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the news service reported. The state agency that awarded the money consisted of five Richardson appointees and five members of his gubernatorial cabinet. CDR made contributions both shortly before and after securing consultant work with the state of New Mexico. CDR’s president also contributed $29,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign.

As Malkin shows, the incoming Obama administration knew all about the investigation, but still nominated Richardson to be Secretary of Commerce. It took over a month before they finally tossed him under the proverbial bus.

Oh, and the investigation? The Justice Department dropped it in August,2009:

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

“It’s over. There’s nothing. It was killed in Washington,” the person told The Associated Press.

Now, who was the Attorney General when this decision was made? Oh, yeah

If Richardson does replace Clinton, he’ll fit right in.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Transparency Watch: Oh, that 40-grand!

June 29, 2010

Somewhere in my memory, way back around the time Obama was elected and a new era of Hope and Change had dawned for America, the then-candidate promised us a new era of transparency in government.

That was then, this is now:

White House aide failed to disclose $40K payout

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, told POLITICO Monday that Gaspard was in the process of correcting his disclosure form to reflect that he did in fact have an agreement for severance.

“We have made the small administrative change to this year’s and last year’s forms to indicate that part of the final payment to Patrick reflected their typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU,” Burton wrote POLITICO in an e-mailed statement.

Such financial disclosures are governed by federal law, but Stan Brand, a former House general counsel and ethics expert, said the Justice Department is unlikely to pursue an investigation unless they suspected a “knowing or willful” intent to deceive.

Call me a paranoid, racist, dangerous right-wing potential extremist (and don’t forget “Nazi!“, too), but I find it hard to believe that someone could just forget $40,000 paid out to him by his former employer, especially when he needed the money to pay down nearly $80,000 in debts.  Hey, it happens all the time, right?

Oh, and the former employer happens to be a powerful union allied with one’s new boss and his political program. And that union’s then-head was and is a frequent visitor to the White House.

What a coincidence.

They must be using the Tammany Hall definition of “transparency.”

(via Ed Morrissey)


Obscure presidents worth remembering

June 23, 2010

Okay, I admit to having a fondness for obscure presidents. I mean, who isn’t fascinated by the Fillmore administration? And Chester Arthur? Enough said, know what I mean?

Kidding aside, Alan Snyder at Big Government draws our attention to two nearly forgotten presidents who nevertheless have good advice for us, more than a century after they served: Presidents James Garfield (R) and Grover Cleveland (D). Snyder briefly tells their stories, showing why they were men of good character (fighting corruption and sticking to the Constitution, for example) and then gives quotes from each that are remarkably applicable to America’s present dilemmas. One of Garfield’s from before he was president serves to illustrate:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. …

If the next centennial [of the Declaration of Independence] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Take a good look at Congress the last several years and, especially, since the Democrats took over in 2007. Don’t Garfield’s words seem prescient? And don’t they point the way to fixing it, and who has to do it?

Be sure to read the rest.

PS: Back to being an obscure-presidents geek! Here are some fun trivia about James Garfield and the story of Grover Cleveland’s secret surgery.


Culture of Corruption Watch: Arne Duncan

March 23, 2010

What a non-surprise to learn that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a practitioner of the Chicago Way. It seems that, while he was head of the Chicago school system, he kept a secret list of the High and Mighty who could get their or their friends’ children into the best schools – in return for what, we wonder.  Chicago Breaking News has the story:

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Now, the article does go on to point out that “often” a student’s petition was rejected, and that some parents among the non-politically connected were on the list. But the latter case amounted to only about 25% of the list, the remainder composed of the Chicago and Illinois elite. One also wonders what “often” really means regarding the rejections, and how many of those came from the “Friends of Arne” group. Details would be nice. And why was the list secret? Shouldn’t every parent in the Chicago system have access to this appeals process?

More to the point, as Ed at Hot Air asks, what if anything did Duncan get in return? This is Chicago, after all.


Arrogance, corruption and stupidity

December 24, 2009

Early this morning Last night the Senate passed its version of health-care reform on a party-line 60-39 vote, the first time that’s happened on a truly major piece of legislation since the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Thankfully, I’m not into omens, but how fitting that Nebraska should reprise its old role! The LA Times called the moment “historic.” Perhaps, but I would remind them of what Karl Marx once said about historic repetitions.

And yes, the oddity of me quoting Marx has not gone unnoticed. But the progress of this abominable bill through the Senate has brought us to an odd time, indeed, when even cats and dogs will ally.

I was all set to write a long screed about what a terrible piece of legislation this is and how rotten the process became, but Oklahoma’s Senator Tom Coburn, a physician, does it for me:

This vote is indeed historic. This Congress will be remembered for its arrogance, corruption and stupidity. In the year of 2009, a Congress ignored the coming economic storm and impending bankruptcy of our entitlement programs and embarked on an ideological crusade to bring our nation as close to single-payer, government-run health care as possible. If this bill becomes law, future generations will rue this day and I will do everything in my power to work toward its repeal. This bill will ration care, cut Medicare, increase premiums, fund abortion and bury our children in debt.

This process was not compromise. This process was corruption. This bill passed because votes were bought and sold using the issue of abortion as a bargaining chip. The abortion provision alone makes this bill the most arrogant piece of legislation I have seen in Congress. Only the most condescending politician can believe it is appropriate to force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions and to coerce medical professional to take the lives of unborn children.

(via Gaius)

Go, read the rest. Some form of nationalized health care, whether the Senate’s, the House’s, or a compromise monstrosity, is almost certain to pass in the next few months. Regardless of which, just remember the arrogance, corruption, and stupidity of those who passed it when you go to vote next November.

RELATED: A powerful House Democrat is not impressed with ReidCare.


Senatorial sell-outs and the Jacksonian wave

December 21, 2009

Late last night, Senator Harry Reid found the last vote he needed and forced through a cloture motion to cut off debate over the Senate’s version of a health-care “reform” bill.  Under the rules, the bill is now scheduled to come to a final vote and all-but assured passage sometime on Christmas Eve. (And if you noted the profound irony of voting for a bill that includes federal money to fund abortions on Christmas Eve, you’re not alone.)

It wasn’t easy for Harry. Republicans are unanimously opposed, while Several “moderate” Democratic senators had qualms about the bill because of the cost or (try not to snicker) over principles.  So, the Majority Leader from Nevada had to wheedle and bribe work for his 60 votes. In the end, he got what he wanted, and we learned how much it would take for thoughtful moderates to set aside those concerns about wrecking the US budget costs and violating the Constitution principles. Don Surber shows us the price tags for a six-pack of senators:

Ben Nelson of Nebraska gets:

“As Part Of The Deal To Win Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s Support, The Federal Government Will Fund Nebraska’s New Medicaid Recipients.” (“Ben Nelson’s Medicaid Deal,” Politico, 12/19/09)

“In Addition To The Medicaid Carve Out, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) Negotiated An Exemption From The Insurance Tax For Non-Profit Insurers Based In His State. The Language Was Written In A Way That Only Mutual Of Omaha Insurance Company, As Well As Blue Cross Blue Shield Nonprofit Plans In Nebraska and Michigan, would qualify, according to a Democratic Senate aide.” (“Nelson Wins Insurance Tax Exemption, Too,” Politico, 12/19/09)

Read the rest to see what it took for the other five. Michelle Malkin has the complete list of bribes needed to get ObamaCare through the Senate.

Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and the rest of the Democrat leadership are counting on creating a fait accompli, that once a national medical entitlement is in place, no matter how poorly crafted or harmful to the nation, the public will resist having it taken away. They may be right: one of the great weaknesses of democratic government is that the people can be bribed with their own money – and the Democrats know that. Speaker Pelosi is so sure that this reform will in the long run create a large class of voters beholden to the Democrat Party, thus ensuring that party a long-term majority, that she is willing to sacrifice Democratic seats in the near-term, even her majority, to get it.

She may get the first part of her wish.

Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics thinks we may be approaching one of our country’s periodic “Jacksonian moments,” when the public grows so disgusted with the ruling party in Washington that they throw the bums out en masse:

People in Congress and the lobbyists who court them have pretty good gigs. They have nice offices, make big salaries, and have lots of people hop to at their say so. Yet ultimately, all of their money, power, and prestige come from the people. The people are the sole source of sovereignty in our nation. Our Constitution opens, “We the people of the United States” – not “We the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of the United States” or “We the senior members of Congress with plum committee assignments.” Everything about our system is the way it is because the people allow it to be that way. This is why it’s best for the entrenched interests and the politicians to keep their under-handed means and particularistic ends from affecting the people. They can take it all away in a single instant – so the smart approach is not to give them a reason.

This Congress and this President seem hell-bent on ignoring that maxim. It started last year with TARP. It continued into this year with the pork-laden, wasteful stimulus bill. It moved to the auto bailouts, reckless deficit spending, and coziness with Wall Street. And now, it has moved to health care “reform.” The people are taking notice, they don’t like it, and they’re starting to blame the government for the weakened state of the union.

We might be on the verge of another Jacksonian moment: a time when the people awake from their slumber, angrily exercise their sovereign authority, and mercilessly fire the leaders who have for too long catered to the elites rather than average people. The first time this happened was in 1828 – when the people rallied to the cause of Old Hickory to avenge the “Corrupt Bargain” of four years prior. It’s happened several times throughout the centuries. Most relevant to today, it happened time and again in the 1880s and 1890s, as the people hired then fired one Republican and Democratic majority after another in search of leaders who could attend to the people’s interests instead of the special interests. That age saw the birth of the Populist Party. It was a time when so many felt so disgruntled by the political process that young William Jennings Bryan – just thirty-six years old and with only two terms in the House – came within a hundred thousand votes of the presidency.

I wonder if we’ve returned to that kind of dynamic. In true Jacksonian fashion, the country fired the Republicans in 2006 and 2008 because they bungled the war in Iraq and allowed the economy to sink into recession. They might soon have another Jacksonian moment, and fire these equally useless Democrats for hampering the recovery, exploding the deficit, and playing politics with health care.

Be sure to read the whole thing: it’s a long, angry fist-shake at our so-called leaders, who in their arrogance don’t seem to care a whit what we, the People think. In a similar vein, Michael Goodwin, a liberal who supported Hillary Clinton and voted for Obama, unleashes his own inner Jackson. I wonder how many people out there are similarly realizing they were duped by Obama and the Democrats?

We’ll find out next November.

As for the irrevocable fait accompli, I’m not so sure. To create the image that this bill is deficit-neutral in the first ten years, Reid has had to structure it so that all the new taxes come into play immediately, but the “benefits” don’t begin until 2014. That’s four years in which the people will suffer from more money being taken from their checks, but get nothing in return.  Assuming the Jacksonian wave hits in 2010 and/or 2012, this just might be one of those rare entitlements that gets repealed.

We can but hope.  Praying

LINKS: Fausta has a round-up of Cash for Cloture posts. By the way, did you know that, according to Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), you’re a racist Nazi hater if you oppose ObamaCare? No, really:

Remember, that’s the majority of Americans he’s talking about. Ed Morrissey talks about midnight votes. More at Blue Crab Boulevard.