A longtime anti-firearm politician in California who was charged with gun trafficking and corruption for allegedly accepting bribes thinks taxpayers should pay for his political campaigns.
In an interview in December, only a few months before he was charged, the suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said the public needs to “bite the bullet and take money out” of campaigns through public financing, because “money just simply corrupts.”
Yee explained to the Orange County’s Voice of OC, a non-profit investigative news agency, how politicians acquire a sense of entitlement.
“I think there’s that old adage, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s just human nature,” he said. “After a while, you kind of feel that you deserve, you know, all the perks of office, because you’ve suffered so much, you’ve given up so much. You should have all of those kinds of trappings.”
Yee said he had “served for a long time, and I know this stuff, so I don’t have to explain it to you, I don’t have to tell you that.”
“You should just believe me and trust me,” he said. “And I guess I kind of grew up in an era where that was not the norm, that’s not the way in which people behave. And you have to be open and you have to be transparent and you have to be accountable.”
Federal prosecutors on Thursday said they were planning to add racketeering charges to the organized crime and political corruption case against Yee.
The Mercury News reported U.S. Attorney William Frentzen told a federal judge that “RICO charges are coming” in the case.
Yee, 65, has pleaded not guilty to corruption and gun trafficking counts. He’s accused of taking cash in exchange for political promises as well as offering to set up an international arms deal.
He explained why he thinks candidates should be publicly financed.
“I just think that we’ve got to bite the bullet and take money out of it,” he said. “Because money just simply corrupts.
“We ought to find ways to take money out of it and part of it is we’ve got to look at public finance. I hate to say that because that’s going to be an additional responsibility to residents, to the taxpayers … but if we’re going to have open government, transparency, a government that is accountable to the people, the people’s going to have to fund that.
He said, however, it’s “not about simply letting anybody who wants to run all of a sudden go to the people and say give me … you’re going to have to raise enough money, demonstrate you’re a serious candidate and then get public financing.”
“I think we’ve got to tone down large campaign contributions coming in and taking away an election of the people,” he said.
“And you have to be open and you have to be transparent and you have to be accountable.”
WND reported April 13 that the suspension of Yee by the legislature was accompanied by a poll showing a plunge in support for California state lawmakers.
Yee, who was named to the “Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll” by the Brady Campaign in 2006, is now under fire for his alleged involvement in supplying guns illegally in what is dubbed as “gangland ties.”
A Field Poll showed a nine-point shift in approval for the Legislature, with those who approve declining from 46 to 43 percent and those who disapprove rising from 40 to 46 percent.
National Rifle Association Director of Public Affairs Andrew Arulanandam told WND that when citizens are confronted with scandals such as the Yee case, “it dramatically violates their trust.”
“They roll their eyes and think this is the definition of hypocrisy,” he said.
<i>See the first Yee video:</i>
<i>See the second video:</i>