Judge Sentences Ex-California Senator Leland Yee to Five Years for Racketeering

As reported by NBC Bay Area:

A federal judge sentenced disgraced former California Sen. Leland Yee to five years in prison Wednesday morning after the career politician asked the judge for leniency and to take his whole life of service into account.

Senior District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco imposed the sentence after the 67-year-old Yee pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering.

“I don’t feel I should be lenient,” Breyer said during the hearing. “The crimes that you committed have resulted in essentially an attack on democratic institutions. We all deal with the situation that we in our work must be accepted by the public as having done an honest job.”

Still, the judge sided with the defense, who had asked for five years in prison, rather than with prosecutors, who had sought an eight-year sentence …

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June Ballot “Orphaned,” But Likely to Pass

CA-legislatureWhile dozens of?measures?are vying to make it on the November general election ballot, one proposal is ready for?the June primary ? even though no one is campaigning for or against it.

Proposition 50 is a constitutional amendment empowering legislators to suspend other legislators without pay with a two-thirds vote of the respective chamber.

The measure is in response to?three suspensions with pay in 2014: Democratic state Sens. Roderick Wright of Inglewood, Leland Yee of San Francisco and?Ron Calderon of Montebello. Wright was suspended after being convicted of felony perjury and election fraud and the other two were suspended after federal corruption charges were filed.

The measure has a good chance of passing, as public perception of the Legislature took a hit following the rash of incidents in 2014 (in February of 2015, it rebounded a bit but was still in the low 40 percent range).

?From a voter?s perspective, it?s pretty straight forward,? said Kathay Feng, the executive director of the good government group California Common Cause. ?There?s not much love for misbehaving legislators.?

Feng said some may?question whether this measure violates the spirit of innocent until proven guilty, but others are sure this won?t be an issue.

?Guilty until proven innocent when it comes to legislators,? said Steven Maviglio, a Democratic campaign strategist, noting that the measure is ?totally non-controversial.?

Politics and Process

The measure doesn?t have any opponents actively fighting it. But no one is pushing for it either. When contacted by CalWatchdog, former Democratic Senate President Pro Tem?Darrell Steinberg, who introduced the measure, deferred through an aide to sitting senators or the Senate Rules Committee for more info.

But?sitting senators would refer it to an outside group to handle the campaign, yet no such committee?has been formed.?No one is campaigning for it.

?All of the people who were originally involved seemed to have left this as an orphan for somebody else,? said Feng.

If the measure?s passage is truly inevitable ? a slam dunk ? then there may be little need to push for it, especially in the absence of opposition.?But some observers say it could be that the pressure is off now that no one is in trouble.

?Out of sight, out of mind,? said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. ?The idea may regain currency if another legislator gets into major trouble, but until then it is in the political memory hole.?

The measure will appear on the June ballot?because it?is a constitutional amendment added by the Legislature. Measures that go through the signature gathering process can?only appear on the November general election ballot ? of which it appears there will be plenty.

How Else Can They Be Punished?

Besides suspension, legislators have other punitive actions they can take against lawmakers, although they are rarely used.

According to Alex Vassar, who runs the California political website One Voter Project, censure (it?s?basically a public shaming by peers) was last used in 1982 to strongly condemn comments made about abortion rights protesters by O.C. Republican John G. Schmitz.

Expulsion, according to Vassar, was last used in 1905?against?legislators colluding to solicit bribes (Wright was threatened with an expulsion vote).?And members can also be stripped of committee assignments, which was used last with Yee, Wright and Calderon.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Capitol Corruption Inspires June Ballot Measure

Photo Credit: kqed.org

Former State Senator Leland Yee. Photo Credit: kqed.org

California Secretary of State Alex Pedilla has assigned a number, Proposition 50, to the only measure to appear on the upcoming June primary ballot.

If passed by the voters, Prop. 50 would amend the state constitution to allow either chamber of the Legislature, by a two-thirds vote, to suspend a member of that body without pay or benefits.

The measure stands as a reminder of the corruption that has gripped the California State Capitol in recent years.

To understand the origin of this measure, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, you need only look back to March 28, 2014. That was just days after State Senator Leland Yee became the third Democrat in the Legislature?s upper chamber to become embroiled in criminal wrong-doing, with the federal government charging Yee with gun-running, illegal sale of firearms, of taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, and more.

The previous month, State Senator Ron Calderon had been indicted by the federal government on bribery and corruption charges. A month before that, State Senator Rod Wright was convicted by a jury of multiple felony counts of voter fraud and perjury.

Then-State Senate President Darrell Steinberg was part of a bi-partisan Capitol establishment which largely looked the other way, permitting Wright to serve after being charged, and ? incredibly ? after being found guilty.?Calderon was also allowed to continue to serve despite his high-profile charges. Public calls by several Republican Senators to take action, including a formal resolution to expel Wright, were?buried by Steinberg and not permitted to come to a vote. It wasn?t until Yee was indicted that finally the pressure on the State Senate leadership was such that they were forced to act.

Yee?s indictment was apparently the proverbial straw that broke the camel?s back, and the Senate voted to suspend Calderon, Wright and Yee. When that was done, it was made clear that there was no authority under the state constitution to stop paying the Senators their $90,526 annual pay?and benefits. At that time the constitutional amendment that would become Prop. 50 was introduced.

Wright remained in the Senate until appeal of his conviction was denied. Calderon and Yee served through the end of their terms in 2014, while suspended from their official duties. Both have criminal trials pending.

California state law allows only for measures placed on the ballot before the Legislature to appear on the June ballot. All measures qualified by gathering signatures must appear in November. It is anticipated that over 15?measures will appear on the general election ballot.

This article was originally published by Brietbart.com/California

And The Political Oscar Goes To …

Oscar Sunday?has arrived,?and while the celebrities are preening for their 30-seconds on screen, we thought at F&H we should put out Oscars for California political performances so far this year.

Best Actor:?Neel Kashkari,?on the streets?of Fresno (albeit a performance that the locals didn?t vote for)

Best Subtle Performance:?Jerry Brown at his budget press conference assuring reporters Prop 30 taxes are temporary ? or are they? See Joel?s column?here?and Dan Walters?here?both picking up the same thing, maybe there is some flexibility in the word ?temporary.?

Best Imitation of Hamlet:?Antonio Villaraigosa ? Will he or won?t he run for the U.S. Senate?

Best Special Effects:?Kevin de Leon?s swearing in as Pro Tem

Best Original Song:?Kim Alexander and California Voter Foundation 2014?Proposition Song

Best Director:?Ace Smith, making all the political actors move as he wishes

Best Editing:?Nathan Fletcher, turning his war hero Republican movie into an independent film, then a mainstream Democratic one

Best Adapted Screenplay:?Prop. 2, with spare parts from previous rainy day fund?attempts

Best Supporting Actor:?Sutter Brown

Best Costume (to Prove this is Not 1980 California):?Proposed ballot measures to reverse English Only, require condoms in porn films, and legalize marijuana

Surprise Newcomer of the Year:?Assemblywoman Patty Lopez

Most Surprising Performance:?Leland Yee, really was there any doubt?

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Z?calo Public Square, and Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University.