Why is Calif. State Sen. Leland Yee Not Yet a Household Name?


B.D. Wong, call your agent.
Credit: shawncalhoun / Foter / CC BY-NC

A politician honored for his gun control efforts is arrested for attempted arms smuggling. He held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character.

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. Today Glenn Harlan "Instapundit" Reynolds is calling out CNN at USA Today for failing to follow the story:

[O]utside of local media like San Francisco magazine, the coverage was surprisingly muted.The New York Times buried the story as a one-paragraph Associated Press report on page A21, with the bland dog-bites-man headline, "California: State Senator Accused of Corruption." This even though Yee was suspended, along with two others, from the California state senate in light of the indictment.

CNN, home (also until last week) of Piers Morgan, whom Yee had praised for his anti-gun activism, didn't report the story at all. When prodded by viewers, the network snarked that it doesn't do state senators. Which is odd, because searching the name of my own state senator, Stacey Campfield, turns up a page of results, involving criticisms of him for saying something "extreme". Meanwhile, CNN found time to bash Wisconsin state senator and supporter of Gov. Scott Walker, Randy Hopper over marital problems.

But there's a difference. They're Republicans. When Republicans do things that embarrass their party, the national media are happy to take note, even if they're mere state senators. But when Democrats like Yee get busted for actual felonies, and pretty dramatic ones at that, the press suddenly isn't interested.

We've seen this before, of course: Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff dismissed the horrific Kermit Gosnell trial as a "local crime story", even as the press was going crazy covering another equally local crime story, the George Zimmerman trial. Likewise, another state senator, Texas' Wendy Davis, got national attention when she filibustered an abortion bill, a story that fit conveniently with the "war on women" theme used by Democrats.

Read more here. A search of Yee's name on CNN brings up nothing past the year 2011. The most recent story is about California banning shark fins, and Yee is quoted with concerns that the ban targets Chinese-Americans.

I did a few other national news searches with Yee's name. Nothing came up on NBC News, but CBS and ABC had stories. Fox News, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal all had stories. MSNBC noted Yee's arrest last week, hilariously starting the coverage of a spate of Democratic corruption investigations by leading with how many problems the Republicans have first. But they reported Yee's arrest before any details were provided of the charges. They have not followed up with any subsequent stories that indicate exactly why Yee was arrested.

UPDATE: Commenter Jackand Ace pointed me to this coverage of the scandals by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. It did not show up on the site when I searched for Yee's name, but I am adding out of fairness. MSNBC, you need some lessons on search engine optimization.

NEXT: Rand Paul Reads History, Likes Bands That Were Big When He Was a Teenager, Must Be Some Crazy Blame-America-Firster

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  1. Because he is a Democrat!

    1. No, because the media need to focus on real scandals, like Bridgegate!

      1. Traffic jams are much more serious than banditti wielding RPGs, WTF

        1. You are just trying to distract from the 7 million Americans who are now have health insurance by the graces of Lord Obama.

          1. All that fake dissent about Obamacare?

  2. 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?)

    San Fierro in GTA:San Andreas.

    1. damn, maybe i didn’t make it that far. I think i woulda remembered flying off those SF hills.

      1. It’s the most boring of the three cities, even for a wantonly violent rampage. Unless the storyline brings you there, you don’t really head back.

        1. I rather enjoyed just flying around it. I’d pick up my jet pack out in the desert and then go flying by Las Venturas, over to the badlands and Mount Chiliad, and then venture north to San Fierro.

          Also I believe there was the military base by there that you could steal the hydra from.

          1. Translation: Much like the real life city upon which its modeled, its gorgeous from a macro level with its bridges and bay and skyline. But being down within the city is an exercise in one’s ability to tolerate high concentrations of stupid.

        2. Really? I recall spending most of my time there. I’d go on my dildo-wielding rampage at that gas station you buy. Maybe it was residual love for Liberty City, since SF most resembles it.

          And, apropos of Scott’s post, I think I liked the Asian gang’s missions the most. You do some weird things in San Fierro.

      2. The only really great part about San Fierro is the big mountain located right next to the city. Wicked auto racing. The city itself is so-so.

  3. Yeah, I was stunned when I first read this story. California senator with two gun control proposals in the legislature, busted for gun running.

    You know how the article framed it? You wanna know? Lee was “lured” into these deals because, gosh darn it, campaigning is just too ding-dang-dong expensive.

    So hopefully that will help Shackford figure out why this story isn’t getting much traction in the media.

    1. Wait, what? Please tell me this is some kind of April Fool’s prank post.

      1. Judge for yourself:

        Investigators say Chow is the leader ? the dragonhead ? of one of the most powerful Asian gangs in North America. Chow’s gang is said to have lured state Sen. Leland Yee into its clutches through money and campaign contributions in exchange for legislative help, as Yee sought to build his campaign coffers to run for California secretary of state.

        Poor Yee.

        The article doesn’t even mention Yee’s gun control efforts. Not even in passing.


        1. Pure and innocent as the driven snow, he was the victim of naivety.

        2. At least if you go down many paragraphs, you get to the part where he’s “a progressive Democrat.”

        3. What part of “Don’t lie for the other guy.” does he not understand?

          Even my 6-yr. old gets it (and giggles at the empty threat).

          1. Oh, you have been barraged by those annoying radio ads too?

            1. It’s far worse than “This is your brain on drugs.”

        4. Jesus jumping Christ on the mountain.

      2. The other large group of people protesting are saying things like “Why is the FBI wasting precious resources on this?!”

      3. Oh, I believe it completely. I had a liberal once tell me that while corporations are not people, governments are “people just like you and me” and that the evil corporations FORCE all those honest politician to take their money and make laws in their favor.

        Seriously – people really believe this shit.

    2. campaigning is just too ding-dang-dong expensive.

      Said about an Asian-American politician? Racist.

      1. Yeah! Yee is Chines and that’s obviously a *Vietnamese* name!

      2. “Said about an Asian-American politician? Racist.”

        Sum Ting Wong?

        1. Oops; too late.

    3. Don’t you mean “Ching Chong Ding Dong expensive”?

      The grievance industry is going apeshit over that one.


      1. Captain Sum Ting Wong

        Ho Lee Fuk

        Wi Tu Lo

        Bang Ding Ow

        (Sorry, that will never, ever stop being funny to me)

        1. Me love you comments long time

  4. In a truly amazing attempt at misdirection, his lawyer is griping that the investigation was a mis-use of government resources that should have been used elsewhere!

  5. How can we pay attention to a gun-running, vote-buying state senator when we have real scandals, like a traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, to captivate our attention.

  6. Why is Reason racist against Chinese-Americans.

    1. Nobody is racist against Chinese-Americans, they’re microaggressive.

      But you’re right, Reason really needs to adopt a more libertarian NMAP ethos.

    2. I thought you were being unfair until I saw that Shackford Alt texted it as:
      “Me So Solly, Me SO Solly”.

      1. Made me look:)

        1. I did go back and look again, too

          *hangs head in shame*

    3. Raff out Roud!

      1. I love you long time.

  7. Right now in PA a Democratic state senator in Philadelphia has been indicted on corruption charges, and four D state representatives in that city just missed out on being indicted because the Democratic AG declined to continue a corruption sting started by her R predecessor.
    In this case it’s double press ignorance: they’re all black as well as D, so they’re a non-story.

    But there is a national story with the AG canceling the investigation–she hired a lawyer who met with the newspaper that published the story and threatened them with a lawsuit if they go any further into the AG’s decision. That got some local press outrage, at least. It should go national.

    1. I am hoping that PA state senator who was arrested in Abington has a primary opponent so that my wife, who’s registered D, can vote against her. Because nobody but a D is going to win in a district made up of Oak Lane, Cheltenham, and Abington.

    2. Like 3 of those reps are running unopposed too, so it’s not like they can even be voted out.

      1. I’m betting there are legislative districts in Philly where no Republican candidate has ever gotten even 1,000 votes in the past 50 years. I’m also sure there are places there no Republican has ever tread, let alone lived.

  8. OK, let’s be fair. He’s a STATE SENATOR. He hasn’t, so far as I recall, been mentioned as a possible Presidential candidate. So he’s less important than Christie. Do I think that the facts that he’s a Democrat, and that the Progressives are Pro-Gun Control have something to do with the lack of coverage? Sure. But even with a hypothetical unbiased media (fat chance!) he just wouldn’t be that big a story ?. yet.

    1. OK, but how about one already convicted but still getting paid?
      “Calif. Senator Convicted Of Voter Fraud, Perjury”
      “The conviction on all eight felony counts doesn’t immediately bar Wright from the Senate,”…..d-perjury/

      And John posted about a legislator back east convicted of beating his SO who’s still getting paid.

    2. He was running for statewide office (Secretary of State), and is one of the more tenured members of the State of California, so he should be big enough to register some national coverage. Especially in light of how sensational this story is. He was a key component of a massive criminal conspiracy, one with links to Islamic separatists and therefore bordering on treason.

      1. And he was out front and center when he called for the firing of Rush Limbaugh a few years back when Limbaugh did some impromptu Chinese lingo on-air.

    3. CSP, its not so much the person, as it is the crime:

      They are both state politicians, so close enough on that score.

      Gun-running v. a traffic jam? And the latter gets vast amounts of press, while the former gets . . . nothing?

  9. Everybody knows that the obstructionist Rethuglicans are the source of California’s woes. And the Tea Party, and the monocled ones, and all those non-sharers in the tech industry, and high-speed rail non-believers, and…..

    1. Oh and KOCHTOPUS

      That last name I made up. The other three are real organizations that poured money into California to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure to raise taxes and to support an initiative that would have made it tougher for labor unions to spend money on politics. In both cases, the big money lost, but voters still do not know for sure where the money came from. The best guess is that the three front organizations were funded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have spread their fortune far and wide to back right-wing candidates and defeat unions, environmentalists, liberals and anyone else who might get in the way of their business interests.

      1. Of course, it is only the money that opposed the people’s legislation that is teh evul. The money from public employees unions is sacrosanct and never poses any spectre of corruption.

      2. In both cases, the big money lost

        So what’s the problem? If the Kochs have some nefarious plan to take over California, their minions are doing a miserable job of it.

        1. If memory serves, the prop 32 bill concerning union political donations generated considerably more financial backing in opposition to the Koch position.

          Just because their side has the bigger war chest doesn’t mean they’ll not criticize the money on the other side.

  10. Why should serious journalists cover fake scandals? The Yee one is just like this one that they don’t waste their time on:…

    1. To be fair, those Democrats were going to oppose Voter ID anyways. It was a convenient bill to pick because the investigation wouldn’t inadvertently change Pennsylvania laws. I think that shows that the investigation was well thought through, which shows what a piece of shit Kathleen Kane is.

  11. Gee, Scott, he is a household name, at least to those who listen to Rachel Maddow. Not only did she bring Yee up 5 days ago, but also said there were two other DEMOCRATS in California politics arrested for corruption, along with her warning that D’s may not just want to complain about Republicans without cleaning their own house first.

    But then, saying all this just would not have supported your premise, would it?…..-democrat/

    1. He meant news outlets people actually pay attention to.

    2. Gee, Scott, he is a household name, at least to those who listen to Rachel Maddow.

      Isn’t that like being World Famous in Mobile, Alabama?

      1. More like being famous in Mudlick Arkansas.

      2. Bob Dylan was Stuck Inside of Mobile once.

      3. hey now! Being famous in Mobile is not too bad! At least it would get you on a Mardi Gras float!

        1. Sadly, he had the Memphis blues…again.

          1. Oh, mama.

    3. That’s good to read that she is calling out her own, even if it is primarily to keep R’s down in Cali.

    4. Well, why the hell didn’t MSNBC post that on their own web site? I’ll update, but I’m certainly not taking responsibility for their failure on this part. I shouldn’t have to go to some other media site to find out what she’s saying. I looked at her blog, for heaven’s sake.

      1. Thanks for at least noting it. She said it on her show, and the clip was posted on her blog.…..7729731727

        1. Somebody over there needs to have a meeting on SEO. I searched for his name and did not find this.

          1. Peace.

      2. By the way, if you listen to the clip, she seems more outraged about all of this than you.

        1. Why would any of us be outraged? We know exactly what kind of scum our overlords are.

    5. Jackand Ace|4.1.14 @ 12:11PM|#
      “Gee, Scott, he is a household name, at least to those who listen to Rachel Maddow.”

      Peaked last week at 50 viewers, didn’t she?

    6. Why would anybody listen to Polly McShrillington?

      1. Maybe just so they get their article right.

  12. Local stories get blown up into national soap operas too often for my tastes, anyway. I get that there is a double standard, and I get why that is frustrating, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over not hearing about a story that doesn’t impact my life in any way whatsoever.

  13. Really. Do we really need to ask why Yee isn’t a household name?

    Can it have something to do with fitting the narrative?

  14. More Democrats have been thrown in jail than Republicans since 2000.


    Bush and Koch!

  15. Why be a Senator if you can’t be above the law?

  16. “SEE?? Bo was right! You’re all Dem-hating SoCons! Never do you lash out against the tide of creationism, but Poor Senator Yee does a little bit of campaigning and whammo, you people go into full attack-mode!”


    anyway, comments from MSNBC:

    “Gasman The First
    5 days ago
    However, the difference between examples of Dem. vs. GOP corruption is you won’t see any Democrats defending the corrupt bastards, even their own. The GOP, on the other hand, WILL defend their own corrupt bastards. Then if that strategy becomes untenable they’ll switch to deflection or trying to blame President Obama.”

    “”June Day
    5 days ago
    Always disappointing to see this kind of thing happening. These folks don’t just let down themselves, their families, their constituents and their supporters when they ‘do the crime’, they let down all of us out here trying to push back against the GOP’s insanity.””


    Md born
    5 days ago
    The governor of N. Carolina and the GOP legislature have been on the ropes due to their extreme right wing agenda and the chemical spills/ purposeful discharge of chemicals by Duke Energy and this will divert attention to a Democratic mayor, who succumbs to bribery before he’s been in office for a year, assuming he’s guilty and sadly, he probably is.””

    No where do you see “gun control” mentioned.

    1. That bit about lefties never defending the corrupt is a hoot. It’s the exact opposite of true, as I’m hard pressed to come up with a time that they haven’t mindlessly defended their guys. At least, not in the last few decades.

      1. He may be a bastard, but he’s their gun-running, rum-running, money laundering, drug smuggling, hooker pimping bastard.

        1. When did politics become a substitute for religion?

          1. It because of all of those filthy, godless communist atheists in the Democratic Party.

            Holy crap! They finally lived up to their paranoid delusional reputation.

          2. “”In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.””

            – Autobiography of Mark Twain

            1. You’re in Twain mode, I see. A good thing.

              1. I scored 2 apropos quotes with one google.

                Birds, stones, bushes, hands, and shit.

        2. Well Michelle Obama has been pushing running real hard since she became first lady.

          Why is everyone raining on this guy for taking up gun-rum-drug-hooker-running?

  17. 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,

    They are?

    If that were true then this–

    Nevertheless, given the media coverage of every time a conservative Republican politician on the state level says something dumb or controversial,

    wouldn’t be. They wouldn’t waste their time on noting that Paul Ryan agrees with Michelle Obama about problems in the inner city(of course, he was a racist for saying it, she’s a hero). They’d be going after that REAL corruption instead of trying to create scandal from opinions liberals don’t like.

    I don’t understand why this disclaimer shows up so often here. Why must a ‘they do it too’ appear when noting leftist corruption and bias? Why is it so hard to admit that the right–at least insofar as conviction rates go–tends to live up to the standards they set themselves more than the left?

    1. It does seem to me that the left tends to be more corrupt, but I don’t know if that’s actually true. I do think the NONSTORY of voter fraud heavy skews to Democratic shenanigans but, again, we don’t have many investigations, so the truth remains elusive.

      1. It does seem to me that the left tends to be more corrupt

        The left is more generally enamored with power and is imbued with a kind of ends-justify-the-means kind of thinking. Plus, being the party of goodies and giveaways, you’re just going to attract a certain type with that ethos.

        1. To be somewhat fair, most of the corruption stories come from largish cities, where D’s rule the roost, without fail.

          Which, of course, should tell you about why you shouldn’t want to live in a city dominated by D politics.

        2. Are there any better kinds of goodies than guns, rum, drugs, and hookers?

      2. Why would we have investigations? We haven’t found voter fraud yet!

      3. I’ll just repost this here – it was from another poster but I forgot who it was. (long PDF):


    2. Back before I cut back on the sauce, I used to watch Morning Joe before I left for work. That motherfucker would follow up every single item of stupidity, malice, or corruption performed by any politician by noting that it happens “on both sides.” As if there is some sort of physical law–conservation of corruption or something–where anything done by a member of one party must equal out something done by a member of another party.

      I noticed that Progs do it most often for some reason. It infuriates me, because if you accept it then you’ve basically let the specifics of an actual event get lost in this fuzzy miasma of eternal moral relativism. It’s like letting someone who just killed five people on a sidewalk keep his CDL because, let’s face it, everybody’s had a bad driving day.

      I think you see it more often on the Left for the simple reason that they’ve built an ideology around government by Top Men being the solution to human fallibility. Republicans at least pay lip service to deregulation. If government isn’t regulating something, then the regulators aren’t in a position to be bribed. Dems, on the other hand, want government’s hand on the switch. Well, guess what? That opens them up to corruption.

  18. 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?).

    This would be better suited for a stateside installment of Sleeping Dogs.

  19. Maddow’s segment on this is exceedingly silly. “Why the Word ‘Politician’ Has Become an Insult”. Has become? It’s like she’s never read a history book.

    1. “”Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”‘
      – Mark Twain, a Biography

  20. Further confirmation of the corruption of the current media, and that it has become a PR outlet for the Progressive/Democrat Party.

  21. I’m so glad that the major news networks will die with the generation that is currently in power.

  22. (have they set a game in a parody of San Francisco yet?).

    San Fransisco is a parody of San Fransisco. How do you parody that which is already a parody?

    1. By inserting a Wayans brother.

      1. +1 Homey the Clown

  23. The press is the clergy of the Progressive Theocracy. They sing hymms to government power, and the Government Party.

    Expecting the press to cover corruption of the Government Party exactly when their policies and actions demonstrate that the Government Party is about disempowering citizens and cashing in on that disempowerment is like expecting Catholics to catalog the genocidal crimes of Yahweh in the old testament. Aint gonna happen.

  24. MSNBC, you need some lessons on search engine optimization.

    Hint: video is not searchable. Text (remember that?) is.

    1. Hint: video clips can have embedded metadata that is searchable, you fucking imbecile.

  25. This is a classical example of the Pastor and the Bootlegger. Make it difficult/impossible to buy guns legally, and help the black market vendors thrive, for a kickback of course.

    1. Except the Pastor is the Bootlegger in this case…

  26. Yee is a bit obscure. I only remember him because I saw him debate guns on the Stossel show.

    There’s been a lot of quakes in the So. Cal region. If you don’t believe in God, then you might say mother nature or some cosmic presence is saying “Don’t push your phucking luck”

  27. Good question. Thanks for the article.
    houses for rent near nellis afb

  28. From the article: UPDATE: Commenter Jackand Ace pointed me to this coverage of the scandals by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. It did not show up on the site when I searched for Yee’s name, but I am adding out of fairness. MSNBC, you need some lessons on search engine optimization.


    They need a lesson is search engine *honesty*.

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