History shows that liberal politicians are usually hypocrites when it comes to the laws they pass. These laws are good enough to be obeyed by ordinary citizens, but they shouldn’t apply to important lawmakers like themselves. Yet another example of this hypocrisy showed up recently in California.
California state Senator Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat (and a legislative advocate of gun control), is accused of conspiring last month with two other defendants to import firearms illegally from the Philippines. An undercover agent paid Yee $6,800 in cash for these guns.
A federal grand jury handed down an indictment on April 4 on seven felony charges which included illegal gun trafficking. The California state Senate suspended Yee in late March after these allegations of wrong-doing became public.
The charges range from allegedly promising political favors and gun trafficking to undercover agents in exchange for $62,600 in campaign contributions. This indictment includes the same charges that federal prosecutors filed the last week in March, but includes three additional defendants to the 26 charged previously – plus an additional count against Yee that carries a possible 20-year prison sentence.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco. The defendants are scheduled for arraignment Tuesday. Attorney James Brosnahan, who represents Keith Jackson, Yee’s former consultant and fundraiser, said Yee and the other defendants will plead not guilty.
According to a 137-page FBI affidavit released last week, the charges stem from a five-year investigation that originally focused on Chinatown gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and later included his associates, including Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president.
The indictment accuses Yee and Jackson of conspiring between May 2011 and March 2014, to “defraud the citizens of California of their right to the honest services of State Senator Leland Yee through bribery.” Yee is alleged to have promised political favors to agents posing as donors to his 2011 campaign for San Francisco mayor and his now-abandoned campaign for California Secretary of State.
The alleged favors include writing a letter and making a phone call in support of Well Tech, a fictitious software company seeking state contracts; arranging meetings between two state senators and an undercover agent posing as a medical marijuana supplier who sought legislation to help his company; and winning passage of a March 2013 Senate resolution honoring Chee Kung Tong, a Chinese-American association headed by Chow.
In each case, the indictment said, agents contributed $5,000 or more to Yee’s campaign. They allegedly made it clear that they were paying for his help – a key element for a conviction of “honest services” fraud. That charge, common in cases of political corruption, has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as applying only to outright bribes or kickbacks exchanged for undeserved favorable treatment.
Yee faces six separate fraud charges for each alleged bribe, each punishable, like the conspiracy charge, by up to 20 years in prison. If convicted on even a few of these charges, Yee could potentially spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Senator Yee is currently free on $500,000 bond while he awaits his trial date.