The indictment of Democratic California State Senator Leland Yee became the latest story in political corruption this week. Yee is one of 26 individuals named in a massive sting conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.) The seven charges against Yee range from corruption to firearm trafficking. Other individuals named in the indictment are charged with additional offenses pertaining to drug trafficking and murder for hire. FBI investigators were seen hauling massive amounts of documents and other materials out of Yee’s Sacramento office this past week. It was the second time federal investigators have been seen in the California capitol this year. In June of 2013, the FBI raided the offices of state Senator Ron Calderon in relation to a separate corruption investigation.
Yee was in a San Francisco courtroom on Wednesday where he heard the charges against him. He did not enter a plea at this time and simply stated, “Yes,” when asked if he understood the charges. He was released on a $500,000 bond and will return to court next Monday. Yee did not resign his state senate seat as a result of the indictment, but he did formally end his campaign to run for California Secretary of State. The California State Senate voted overwhelmingly today to suspend him along with two other disgraced senators, the aforementioned Sen. Calderon, and Rod Wright. Sen. Wright was previously convicted on charges of voter fraud and perjury. All three state senators are Democrats.
The specific charges against Leland Yee involve trading political favors for cash as well as attempting to obtain guns and other weapons for criminal organizations. Undercover FBI operatives claim to have had conversations with Yee in which he offers political favors and other official actions in exchange for cash to pay off old campaign debts and other personal liabilities. The FBI also claims that Yee offered to help obtain guns and other more sophisticated weapons from Muslim terrorist groups operating in the Philippines and have them smuggled into the United States. Yee was also potentially connected to Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. Chow is a leading figure in Chinese organized crime in California and was another individual named in the FBI investigation this week. It is just one part of the latest story of political corruption involving Leland Yee.
The charges against Yee invoked a strong reaction from both the political left and the right. The President Pro Tem of the California State Senate, Democrat Darrell Steinberg, issued a terse statement to Yee and the others charged in the indictment. “Leave please,” he said, urging Yee to immediately resign his seat. Local political observers note that while the Democratic Party still possesses a significant advantage in California, the mounting number of scandals involving Democrats could have a cumulative effect leading to an opportunity for Republicans in the upcoming elections this year.
Critics on the right were also quick to draw attention to Yee, most notably those opposed to gun control. Leland Yee was a strong gun control advocate and often tied violent video games and movies to the misuse of firearms by unstable individual. Both the National Rifle Association and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms issued statements calling Yee a “hypocrite” and a “scumbag.” They painted Yee as another example of “do as I say, not as I do,” for breaking the law regarding guns while at the same time calling for more laws to be put in place to regulate them.
The legal process for Yee is only beginning, and as yet the senator has not been convicted of anything. The process will demonstrate whether the charges made today are valid or not. However it should be noted that the FBI rarely makes such a public “show” of an indictment unless the evidence in its possession is very strong. The Leland Yee indictment is poised to become the latest story in political corruption.
By Christopher V. Spencer
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