Leland Yee’s Less Sexy Corruption Just Part of the System

When the details of the charges levied against Democratic California State Sen. Leland Yee were released, all eyes zeroed in on the gun-trafficking accusations. It made sense to do so—Yee was a notable advocate for tougher gun control, and yet he stands accused of offering assistance in smuggling guns and heavy weapons from a violent group in the Philippines to the United States. This wasn’t just a little bit of hypocrisy, like catching Michelle Obama eating a Big Mac. Yee actuallyintroduced gun control legislation in Sacramento. It was like watching a pack of nuns rob a homeless shelter.

There was more against Yee than the gun charges though. He stands accused of more conventional legislative corruption, charged with taking money in exchange for access or support. Buried at the end of the 137-page FBI report (which led to arrests of 25 others besides Lee in a sting against organized crime in San Francisco) was an undercover effort to snag Yee that doesn’t highlight a crime so much as how the sausage of legislation is made, particularly laws that protect crony capitalists.

An FBI agent posed as a person involved in the medical marijuana industry in Arizona. He had meetings with Yee (and a consultant accused of assisting in the laundering of donations to Yee), claiming he wanted to become a major player in the medical marijuana community in California—the “Anheuser-Busch” of medical marijuana, in fact. To do so, he wanted to get legislation passed in California that would make it harder for competition to exist. He was willing to give Yee money for his campaign for secretary of state in order to push for a law requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to have a doctor on staff. The report noted the agent telling Yee “If state legislation set high barriers for entry, such as requiring a medical doctor on staff, that would make it more difficult for small operators to open a business.” … Read more at Reason.

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