Recently, Democrat leadership in the California legislature have rallied around ethics. They’ve even held mandatory ethics training, banning legislators from bringing their cell phones into the room, lest their attention be diverted for even an instant.
With this new laser-focus, one would think they would surely be ready to genuinely address the ethics violations right under their noses. Yet, as new criminal behavior comes to light, we see that Democrats are focused on passing ethics laws, not on following them.
The Majority party is in hot water from the felony charges brought against three of their own. Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) was found guilty of eight felonies and was expected to be sentenced in court next Friday — a judge has now pushed his sentencing into July. Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) was indicted on federal corruption charges after an FBI sting, and Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was charged in federal court with accepting bribes and gun trafficking.
When faced with this patently unethical behavior within its ranks, the Democratic Senate Leadership refused to let a vote for expulsion be addressed on the Senate Floor. Strangely, the Leadership not only stopped Minority party debate on the Senate Floor, but also voted to suspend these three Senators with full pay.
Suspension may sound like a bold response to illegal behavior. However, there is no mention of suspension anywhere in the California Constitution, making it outside legal boundaries. The California constitution only allows for three things: reprimand, censure, and expulsion. Perhaps recognizing the obvious problem of acting to suspend these Senators without constitutional authority, the Senate President Pro Tempore, the leader of the Senate, is bringing forward a Senate Constitutional Amendment on Tuesday to make suspension suddenly constitutional. Is the Senate Leader’s Constitutional Amendment retroactive?
Finally, after the Democratic Leadership held mandatory ethics training, the media reported that the California Legislative Latino Caucus had denied membership to noted Republican Latino leader Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside).
The Latino Caucus is a taxpayer-funded caucus whose stated mission is “to identify, promote, and advocate on behalf of the professional, educational, social, political, and cultural interests of the Latino community.” Neither the Latino Caucus’s name nor their mission statement makes mention of the fact that the caucus denies Republican Latinos a voice in promoting Latino interests. Is it legally or ethically acceptable to use public resources to exclude the public they purport to represent? A Democratic coalition group should be funded through Democratic Party funds, not through public funds designated for all Latinos, regardless of party affiliation.
While the Senate should always be expected to behave ethically, the Senate Leadership’s newfound ethics focus rings hollow when they allow unethical behavior to run rampant through their own ranks. Honest ethics means not only taking illegal behavior seriously, but also honoring the public who we serve. No tricks, no games, no excuses. Whether it’s felons on the Senate Floor or discriminating against political diversity, Senate Democratic Leadership has to stop the double standards.
Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) represents the 36th District in San Diego and Riverside counties.