State Senate postpones hearings for ethics training (CalWatchdog.com link) - In response to ongoing corruption cases, the California State Senate will postpone all committee hearings scheduled for April 23 and in their place host an all-day ethics discussion and training session.
In a Wednesday afternoon email, Kathy Dresslar, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg‘s chief of staff, requested that Senators, committee staff and Capitol office employees “clear their calendars for this one day to devote to the ethics training and discussion which is being planned.”
“All Committees that were scheduled for Wednesday, April 23 will be postponed until the following day, with the exception of Senate Budget Sub 1, which is being postponed until the following week,” Dresslar wrote in her email to Senate chiefs of staff. “Senate Rules Committee is being rescheduled earlier to Monday, 4/21.”
Steinberg: No ethics class on gun-running
The Senate Ethics Discussion and Training day comes as three suspended members of the State Senate face ongoing criminal charges ranging from weapons trafficking to public corruption. The most serious of the three cases surfaced in late March, when the FBI arrested Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on weapons trafficking and pubic corruption charges.
Allegedly referred to as “Uncle Leland” by his co-conspirators, the San Francisco Democrat allegedly offered to smuggle millions of dollars worth of automatic weapons into the United States from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines, according to the FBI affidavit.
In February, state Senator Ron Calderon was charged with a 24-count indictment in connection with bribery and corruption. In January, state Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood was found guilty of eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy. Wright’s case did not involve any allegations of bribery or corruption.
Following Yee’s arrest, Steinberg called upon “our entire body to take a deeper look at our culture.” But he has also recognized the limits of an ethics review.
“I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality and the danger of gun-running,” Steinberg said during the Senate’s debate over whether to suspend the members with pay.
Canceled Pro Tem Cup, kept money, and deleted websites
The Senate has been mixed in its response to the scandals. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats canceled a luxurious annual fundraising event, known as the Pro Tem Cup, citing the “recent and extraordinary breaches of the public’s trust” by three Democratic state senators as the reason.
However, the Senate Democrats also kept the campaign cash, and in place of the golf tournament, personally called each of the event sponsors.
Over the weekend, the California State Senate scrubbed the websites and online archives of the three Senators that face criminal charges.
In addition to pictures and video clips, the websites contained detailed information about the senators’ legislative achievements and ties, which could shed light on past deals or questionable votes. Although some of the information, such as bill language and votes, remains available on other websites, the individual pages acted as a repository or central clearinghouse for information about the Senators.
(Mod: Scrubbing the websites of criminal State Senators was actually done out of jealousy. They have been getting all of the web traffic over the last few weeks, and Darrell Steinberg was starting to feel slighted. Oh, and hopefully they will find an instructor for that course on the ethics of gun running. Can't just let fund-raising Senators go willy-nilly into this highly profitable field with no prior knowledge of proper decorum.)
Leland Yee scandal blunts increasing approval of Legislature (Sacramento Bee link) - As the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
It was good news for the California Legislature in December, when the Field Poll showed public support for lawmakers at its highest since 2007, and the outlook was only getting brighter. Early results from polling in March indicated voter approval of the Legislature at 46 percent, surpassing disapproval for the first time in more than a decade.
Then scandal hit: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI in a sweeping corruption sting.
As Field finished its polling over the next week, voters' approval of the Legislature tumbled to 43 percent and disapproval jumped from 40 percent to 46 percent, representing a 9 percentage point swing in the negative direction. It's not the record lows that lawmakers saw during the depths of California's budget crisis, but public confidence has clearly been shaken by the string of recent criminal charges — and one conviction, so far — against their representatives.
(Mod: People can be so judgmental at times. Then again, most anything drawing attention to this State Legislature is likely to hurt their approval ratings.)
Firing Squad Or Hanging? AG Candidate Wants Death Penalty For Corrupt Lawmakers (CBS News Sacramento link) - A Republican candidate for California attorney general said Friday that state lawmakers who are found guilty of crimes that endanger the lives of others should face the death penalty.
Phil Wyman, who spent 17 years in the state Legislature, said he was motivated by the case of Democratic Sen. Leland Yee. Yee faces federal charges that include an attempt to coordinate an international gun-running scheme from the Philippines.
Wyman also criticized Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris for being “silent as a mouse” on the corruption cases that have marred the state Senate this year. A campaign spokesman for Harris declined comment.
Wyman said in a news release and subsequent telephone interview that the “most egregious” abusers of their public office, if convicted, should be able to choose their method of death – public hanging, firing squad or lethal injection – as a deterrent to others.
“If they know that it’s gun-running and they know it’s going into a terrorist organization in the Philippines, that person earns the death penalty, and especially if they’re in elected office,” Wyman said in the interview.
Prosecutors would not have to prove that deaths occurred, he said; an officeholder promoting the potential for violence would be enough.
California law currently allows lethal injections for murders committed with aggravating circumstances, such as multiple slayings or murder-for-hire. Wyman would make an exception for corrupt politicians.
“Firing squad, at least that’s a bit more macho than getting some other cocktail. Let that person choose. That person’s been at the pinnacle of power. If he wants to be executed by firing squad, let him,” he said in the interview. “I want to discourage and teach the new generation about values – that nobody is above the law.”
(Mod: He's got my vote. If you hit the link to this article you will see that there is also an on-line poll you can take. So far about 80% are in favor of executing corrupt state officials. That seems low to me. You need to vote.)
Republican leads in California Secretary of State race (AllVoices.com link) - The beleaguered California Republican Party received a rare piece of good news on Friday when the California Poll announced that a Republican leads in the election for secretary of state. Pete Peterson, a Pepperdine University instructor, is in the lead for chief elections officer with 30 percent support, followed by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla with 17 percent.
The election was upended recently when Democratic hopeful Leland Yee was indicted on federal gun trafficking charges.
Another prominent candidate, Dan Schnur, has failed to gain traction so far, receiving only four percent of voter support. Schnur is a well-connected former Republican insider who has served as an aide for such GOP luminaries as former California Gov. Pete Wilson and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. Generally regarded as a moderate, Schnur left the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate.
Also receiving single-digit support are Green Party hopeful David Curtis and Democrat Derek Chassman.
Peterson is executive director of the Davenport Institute of Public Policy at Pepperdine. The think tank seeks to find and promote ways to persuade more citizens to get involved in the political process. He is a reform-minded candidate for Secretary of State who believes elected officials should be paid on the basis of how much they get done rather that a set salary.
Under his plan, a 10-point performance dashboard would be launched on the state website and the salary would be based on what percentage of the goals had been completed successfully. He also proposes making it easier to track money contributed to political campaigns and enhance the use of the World Wide Web to help people find and complete state paperwork.
(Mod: You see how fickle the voters can be? Just because some of the state's leading Democratic elected officials have been arrested for various crimes, including setting up gun running deals with foreign terrorists, is no reason to abandon the majority party here in California. It smacks of ingratitude. And as soon as I figure out exactly what we have to be grateful to the California State Democratic Party for - outside of giving us Susan Henderson, of course - I will get back to you.)