Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What Can We Learn from the Leland Yee Affair?

The arrest of Leland Yee, California state senator, accused of graft, is the latest of a string of Chinese Americans that were ensnared by the FBI, some caught red handed and others that were unwitting victims cornered by a bureau of investigation that frequently acted beyond the laws they were sworn to protect.

In the case of Yee, based on the FBI criminal complaint, he was almost an accidental by-product of a 5-year undercover investigation on a gangster that proclaimed that he has reformed and gone legit since getting out of jail. According to the FBI, Raymond Chow, the main person of FBI’s interest, offered to help Yee in the gun running business and that’s how Yee came to the FBI attention.

According to the affidavit by the FBI agent, Yee was driven by the need to pay off a debt of $70,000 incurred from his unsuccessful run for mayor of San Francisco. Yee faced term limit on his Senate seat and, since the unsuccessful run for mayor, was planning to run for Secretary of State.

Before he could raise campaign funds for his next campaign, he had to pay off his previously incurred debt. Thus according to the FBI, Yee was tempted by the undercover agent into offering illegal undertakings in exchange for illegal contribution to his political campaign.

Yee is now on bail and his attorney indicated that he plans to plead not guilty. The whole story and where the truth lie remains to be told and pending Yee’s day in court.

At this point, the media’s reports on Yee draw primarily from the FBI affidavit in the 137 page criminal complaint and inevitably presenting only the government’s side of the story. Even so, a careful reading leads one to conclude that the undercover FBI agents masquerading as unsavory underworld characters are gifted actors with enterprising minds, excellent in proposing and initiating unlawful schemes to tempt the unwary and those looking for a fast buck.

Apparently Yee in playing the game of trying to be a successful politician faced the constant pressure of having to raise money and fell from grace. By any measure of the way American politics is played today, the amount of money Yee needed to keep him viable was pathetically minuscule compared to the hundreds of millions the upper 1% of 1% can donate to super PACs, and all legal and according to Hoyle.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that campaign contribution is another form of free speech and should not have to face restrictions of any kind. This will simply mean that politics will be a game only for the wealthy and folks of limited net worth, such as Yee, might as well not get into the game. It's that or find illegal sources of fund and risk going to jail.

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