In the weeks since the arrest of Sen. Leland Yee, two hard-to-reconcile versions of the San Francisco Democrat have emerged: Transparency advocate running for secretary of state vs. the man who, according to an FBI affidavit, accepted campaign money in exchange for favors and a promise to set up an illegal gun deal.
A videotaped interview in December with Voice of OC, a nonprofit publication in Orange County, illustrates the size of the gulf.
Yee decried the role money plays in politics and suggested public financing of campaigns. He also offered a theory about the psychology of corrupt politicians.
“I think there’s that old adage about ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ – it’s just human nature,” he said. “After a while you kind of feel that you deserve all the perks of office because you’ve suffered so much, you’ve given up so much.”
If the FBI’s allegations are true, Yee spoke those words after having accepted thousands in campaign money from an undercover agent, part of his strategy to retire his San Francisco mayoral campaign debt and to buoy his run for secretary of state.
California state government’s leave cash-out program is up and running at the Department of Social Services, where employees last week received query forms that asked if they wanted to trade up to 20 hours of leave time for money. About 62,000 members of the state’s workforce of 218,000 fall into one of the four groups eligible for the cash-out. Departments have discretion whether to offer the program, because they have to use existing resources to pay workers.
“The rest of the candidates don’t have the options he has.”