April 1, 2014

BECAUSE NARRATIVE: Scott Shackford: Why Is California State Senator Leland Yee Not Yet A Household Name?

The downfall of Calif. State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco should be an utterly captivating, fascinating story, and the national media should be sinking its teeth into the details. I joked when Yee was first arrested about how he is destined to be parodied in Grand Theft Auto. That was before the FBI’s report was even released. Now, I’m convinced the report could be the outline for an entire Grand Theft Auto installment (have they set a game in a parody of San Francisco yet?). Yee’s story of corruption, attempted gun-running and accusations of vote-selling (an undercover FBI agent posing as a medical marijuana clinic owner wanted him to support legislation introducing new barriers to entry for potential competition) is actually just a small part of a larger story about the crime scene in San Francisco. Beyond Lee’s role, the whole story (pdf) is full of drug transactions, stolen booze fencing, a home invasion by apparently Mexican gangsters, what appears to be counterfeit credit cards supplied by a Russian hacker, and more. It has everything. There’s even a money-laundering scene that takes place inside a massage parlor. It’s part FBI report, part Hollywood pitch.

And yet, it has not captured as much national media attention as one might think. Not long after the story came out, every Republican I follow on Twitter was noting how stories about Yee’s arrest were burying the fact that he’s a Democrat. I’m not particularly interested in an argument over which party is more corrupt. In the Corruption Olympics, each party is full of stellar athletes whose gold medals were paid for by taxpayers, manufactured by a company with cozy ties to both parties, and cost 300 percent more than they would in the private market. Nevertheless, given the media coverage of every time a conservative Republican politician on the state level says something dumb or controversial, it is worth noting.

Indeed it is.