Last Friday morning, according to an officer with the California Highway Patrol, State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) was observed driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Hueso was subsequently arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, after allegedly flunking a field sobriety test and having a blood-alcohol level test showing he was over the .08 legal limit.
Driving the wrong way on a one-way street may be what drew the attention of a police officer to Hueso’s car, but it is also an allegory to a very troubling narrative that is emerging for the majority party in the State Capitol: California Democrats appear to be headed the wrong way themselves.
With this latest arrest it means that just about 15% of California’s Democrat Senators have either been arrested or found guilty of criminal activity this year alone.
While it is getting harder to concisely review the Rogues’ Gallery of the State Senate, it is important to remember that three other State Senators are currently on paid leave because of their own criminal transgressions.
Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) was found guilty of eight felonies last January, including voter fraud and perjury.
Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) was indicted in February by federal prosecutors on 24 different felony counts, including bribery, money laundering and tax evasion.
Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was indicted in March by federal prosecutors, charged with conspiracy to traffic firearms without a license, importing firearms illegal, six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of honest services, and more recently they tacked on more charges including racketeering.
In all of these cases there is one thing that ties all of this criminal conduct (or alleged conduct in the case of some) together–a disturbing pattern that implies that Democrats in the California State Senate are above the law, that suggests there is a culture of corruption permeating the majority party in the State Capitol.
In addition to those Senators mentioned above, it stands to reason that there are probably others who have crossed the line, but have avoided law enforcement attention.
There is perhaps no greater sign that this is a cultural issue within the vaunted walls of the State Capitol than the serial refusal of Democrats, who enjoy super-majorities in both chambers and have total domination of the legislature, to take any action to remove Calderon, Wright or Yee from their positions of public trust.
The California Constitution provides that legislators may expel one of their own. And yet they refuse to do so. Perhaps most egregiously in the case of Rod Wright, whom a jury of his peers found guilty over half a year ago.
Senate President Darrell Steinberg, the leader of Democrats in the upper chamber, said after the news of the guilty verdicts against Wright, “Where we stand today, there is no final conviction, but a jury verdict. Unless and until there is a final conviction for a felony, I do not believe it is necessary to expel Senator Wright or ask him to resign.”
Nearly six months later, Steinberg has held true to his statement. Wright has neither been expelled nor asked to resign by his fellow Democrats. Five Republican Senators asked for a vote on the floor on the issue of expelling Wright, only to have their request buttonholed by Steinberg.
In the cases of Calderon and Yee, Steinberg actually called for their resignations. But when they did not comply, instead of calling for a vote to expel them, Steinberg–after being more or less forced into a corner–rolled out the idea of “suspending” Calderon, Wright and Yee.
There really is no such thing, actually. It’s really more like a paid vacation, with the three criminally tainted legislators having no responsibilities in the Capitol, but continuing to pull down their annual $95,291 salaries.
How many legislators from the majority party have called for any of their indicted or convicted colleagues to be expelled from office? Zero.
All we hear from the Democrats in the Capitol is a repetitive drumbeat about being disappointed in the personal lapses of their colleagues.
Steinberg’s response to his colleague, Ben Hueso, driving a state-owned Ford Fusion the wrong way up a street? “It’s a lapse of personal judgment, and I’m only glad that no one was hurt.”
The general election in California is just over two months away. And while most of California’s legislative districts have been drawn in a manner where they are not competitive.
However, a handful of Senate and Assembly seats will be hotly contested this November.
Democrats should not be surprised to find their apparent culture of corruption being an issue in those races. It is a scathing statement about one-party-rule in the State Capitol.