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Three California State Senators suspended with pay pending criminal charges

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Three California State Senators who are facing criminal charges and investigations, were suspended with pay by the State Senate today pending outcome of their cases, according to The Sacramento Bee on March 28. The suspensions largely were precipitated by this week's arrest of Senator Leland Yee (D) on charges of gun-running and trafficking.

Yee, a Senator who represents parts of San Francisco and San Mateo County, has established his political career on a foundation of anti-gun policies. He has been very outspoken on the need to control access to guns because of violence associated with them, including drive-by shootings, theater shootings, school shootings and gang violence. That is why it is particularly perplexing that such a dedicated anti-gun politician would be charged with gun trafficking. Yee even had claimed to have received assassination threats because of his anti-gun policies and had promised to continue his fight against guns despite the threats.

Senator Ron Calderon (D) of Montebello (near Los Angeles) has been indicted on twenty-four charges of corruption. Senator Rod Wright (D) of Baldwin Hills (also in the Los Angeles area) has been convicted of perjury and is waiting to see if his conviction is upheld by the judge. Wright also has been charged with voter fraud in conjunction with the perjury charge for lying about whether or not he actually lived in the district he represents.

In response to the multiple charges against the three senators, the California State Senate took the historic vote (28 to 1) to suspend the three "until all criminal proceedings currently pending against them have been dismissed." State Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D) of Sacramento called upon fellow senators in Sacramento to examine their political culture, stating:

"One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Three? I am calling on our entire body to take a deeper look at our culture."

However, one maverick Senator who voted against the multiple suspensions, Senator Joel Anderson (R) of Alpine (near San Diego), claimed that the suspensions do not go far enough and that expulsion was the one and only action that should be taken by the State Senate. Anderson even went so far as to refer to the suspensions as a "paid holiday" for the three senators. Anderson stated:

"Which is it today, more smoke a mirrors, more paid holidays for bad behavior. There should be only one measure on this floor...and that's to expel these members."