Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government


Forget House of Cards and Scandal.

The hottest political soap opera of 2014 is the California Senate, and its latest plot twist is a doozy: Last Wednesday, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI on charges of corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons.

With the Capitol on holiday for Cesar Chavez Day, let's review what you may have missed during last week's crazy episode. Warning: spoilers ahead.

VIDEO: The state Senate's latest scandal is more ammunition for an election year battle over the Democrats' supermajority, Dan Walters says.

WEDNESDAY: The FBI arrested Yee at his San Francisco home Wednesday morning and raided his Capitol office as part of a sweeping sting of more than two dozen Bay Area figures suspected of selling drugs, smuggling guns and arranging murder for hire.

Among those connected to the case was Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a Chinatown gangster who had been honored in the past by elected officials for turning his life around.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was "extremely disappointed and upset" by the news, which follows the January conviction of Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, on felony charges related to living outside his district and the February indictment of Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, on corruption charges. Steinberg later called upon Yee to resign or he would be suspended.

The affidavit was unsealed in the afternoon, and it reads like a conspiracy thriller: illegal arms dealing, Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines, deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the nickname "Uncle Leland" all make appearances. The tangled web of San Francisco politicians, organized crime and undercover agents takes a map to keep track of.

THURSDAY: Pressure mounted on Yee to leave the Senate, with calls coming all the way from Washington, D.C. Though he ignored those requests, Yee did drop out of the race for California secretary of state. His name, however, will remain on the ballot.

FRIDAY: In what should have been a quiet per diem session before the long weekend, the Senate took an unprecedented step, suspending not just Yee but all three of its members facing legal troubles. The resolution says they can't resume office "until all criminal proceedings currently pending against them have been dismissed," but Yee, Wright and Calderon will continue to be paid.

Wright and Calderon had previously been allowed to take paid leaves of absence, but Steinberg said developments with Yee had changed his mind about how to deal with them. Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, was the sole dissenting vote. He argued that the measure did not go far enough and the disgraced members should be expelled.

That's a lot of plot development for one week, but the drama is not over yet. Stay tuned.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who turns 62 today.


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