California Senate votes to suspend accused arms trafficker, convicted felon...with pay

The Brady Campaign Prevention of Gun Violence Honor Roll member Sen. Leland Yee (and former frontrunner for Secretary of State), accused of selling rocket launchers to foreign countries, was the last straw.

(Reuters) – The California state Senate voted on Friday to suspend three Democratic lawmakers who have been the subject of criminal probes, including Leland Yee, who was arrested this week in an FBI sweep on corruption and gun trafficking charges.

They haven’t just been the subject of criminal probes. Yee is facing charges and has yet to be convicted. Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello, also faces more than 20 charges after an FBI raid on his office, and Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, has been convicted of several felonies. Wright has been on a leave of absence while preparing for his sentencing in early May for voter fraud, among other things.

In a trial that began Jan. 8, prosecutors accused Wright of faking a move to a rental property he owned in Inglewood so he could run in what was then the 25th Senate District.

They accused him of lying on voter registration and candidacy documents and of casting ballots in five elections he was not entitled to vote in from the Inglewood address.

Asked why he didn’t forgo pay while he was on his leave of absence, the charmer had this to say:

“Why would I do that? If I were a police officer and I shot someone, I wouldn’t be asked to do that. There are no other state employees that would be asked to do that. Why should I be treated differently than someone who works at the highway patrol or the DMV?”

Perhaps you’ve hit upon the problem, Senator.

Calderon faces dozens of charges after having his Capitol office and the office of the Latino Legislative Caucus raided by the FBI. He had already been stripped of committee slots, but is now suspended with pay, too:

The Senate Rules Committee voted 4 to 0 to suspend Calderon’s assignments in response to a federal investigation into whether Calderon accepted $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio executive in exchange for pursuing an expansion of tax credits for the film industry.

The lawmaker is also alleged to have taken $28,000 from a Long Beach hospital executive for efforts to affect legislation on workers’ compensation claims.

The allegations are contained in a sealed FBI affidavit made public two weeks ago by the Al Jazeera America cable network.

Suspending these men with pay required a “fiery and passionate debate,” though the final vote was 28-1. (The one no vote was a critical Republican who wanted to highlight that he had asked for these suspensions earlier and found this move by Democrats “disingenuous.)

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is shocked that a sizable percentage of his caucus has faced felony charges this year:

“One is an anomaly, two a coincidence, but three?” Steinberg said on the Senate floor before the vote.

The state of California may want to consider more explicit ethics instructions for its lawmakers, funded by taxpayers, of course:

“I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality or the danger of gun-running or other such sordid activities,” he said.