California Immigrant Pol Leland Yee, Who Accused Conservationists Of “Xenophobia” For Liking Native Plants, Busted For Corruption

State Sen. Leland Yee, (D-Calif.) shows a bowl of shark fin soup.

State Sen. Leland Yee, (D-Calif.) shows a bowl of shark fin soup during a news conference to oppose a bill to ban the sale of shark fin soup, in San Francisco`s Chinatown, February 14, 2011.

Here`s some rare amusing news from big blue California. State Senator Leland Yee, an immigrant long a staple in San Francisco’s Chinese diversity racket, has been arrested for corruption and gun trafficking.

Here’s a report of the bust from Wednesday afternoon:

State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested on public corruption charges Wednesday after federal authorities said he solicited money from undercover FBI agents for his current campaign to be secretary of state, promising to use his role in Sacramento to help the moles in return for the cash.

Yee, a Democrat representing San Francisco and a portion of San Mateo County, participated in a discussion with the undercover agents about an illegal gun-trafficking deal at one point, the FBI said.

Yee was one of 26 people arrested after a lengthy racketeering, gun-running and money laundering investigation that also targeted Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious former San Francisco gangster, officials said.

Yee was charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, as well as with participating in a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

California State Sen. Leland Yee arrested in corruption case, by Henry K. Lee, Carla Marinucci and Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2014

Yee’s numerous earlier misadventures have not suggested hard-core crime connections, so his big-time arrest with hundreds of officers was a new side to the Senator. The case looks like it might shine some light on the local Chinese criminal underworld, given that convicted gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow—also an immigrant—was pinched in the same raid. [Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow Arrest In San Francisco Brings New Spotlight On Notorious Past,  CBS, March 26, 2014]

The criminal complaint [PDF] listed more than two dozen arrested persons, with Yee being one. He was named with two others as being “involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.” That charge is particularly interesting since the Democrat Yee has a record of being an energetic gun grabber.

Leland Yee was born in a Guangdong village under Mao in 1948, where his storekeeper father thought it would be wise to leave. Young Leland arrived with the family in San Francisco Chinatown at age three. The Yees spoke a village dialect so he attended a Chinese school to learn Cantonese. “Everything you needed you could get in Chinatown,” Yee remembered. “You never had to leave.”

 Later, Leland and his mom ventured to downtown San Francisco and shopping at the Emporium department store. “It was like walking into a different country,” he said. “If you didn`t know English, they didn`t have time for you.”

Note that little Leland had to learn Cantonese before people in Chinatown had time for him. But that doesn’t seem to bother him. [The real Leland Yee, By Tim Redmond, SF Bay Guardian, August 30, 2011]

Yee is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, as shown by his many low-information policy positions often based on tribalism, such as his support for shark-fin soup even when mainland Chinese have begun to question the destructive and unsustainable practice. [Sen. Leland Yee Opposes Shark Fin Ban Bill, By Brock Keeling, SFIst, February 14, 2011]

He attained unique notability among friends of California native plants a decade ago when he accused them of xenophobia for their non-diverse botanical preferences.

It seemed like a noble mission when a group of gardeners set out five years ago to restore native plants, bugs and animals to San Francisco`s few remaining green spaces. [. . .]

One supervisor, Leland Yee, took umbrage at the notion that only native species should be kept, and exotic ones eradicated, comparing it to racial cleansing or “xenophobia.“

“Plants and trees without the proper pre-Mayflower lineage are called `invasive exotics` and are wrenched from the soil to die,” Yee wrote in a local newspaper editorial. “How many of us are `invasive exotics` who have taken root in the San Francisco soil, have thrived and flourished here, and now contribute to the diversity of the wonderful mix that constitutes present-day San Francisco?”

Plan to save native plants too toxic for some, By Renee Koury, San Jose Mercury News, November 18, 2002

More recently, Yee supported legislation to release young murderers who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, because they “are deserving of a second chance.”

Interestingly, this is not Yee`s first arrest. He was nabbed in 2000 by Hawaii police for shoplifting some sun-tan lotion. [Mug Shot Doesn`t Flatter Supervisor, By Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, SFGate,  October 13, 2000] A year earlier, he was stopped twice in San Francisco for cruising hookers, but apparently squirmed his way out via political connections. Best to Stay on the Straight, Narrow Streets All the Way Home, byPhillip Matier, Andrew Ross, SFGate, November 22, 1999

Despite all his diversity, Yee is a little too strange for even the local libberdoodle press. The SF Weekly ran a warts-included political bio in 2011:

Here`s a snip:

Leland Yee is a political lifer who has served on the school board, the Board of Supervisors, in the state Assembly, and now in the state Senate, where he represents the Eighth District. He has built a public facade of earnest goodness that, if it were as much his essence as it is his veneer, would make him Sacramento`s top Eagle Scout.

But during that time, Yee has produced a series of possible ethical breaches so numerous and bizarre that voters might feel compelled to seek out extraordinary accomplishments to balance out his weird record.

Good Scout, Bad Boy: Examining the Virtues of Leland Yee, By Matt Smith, SFWeekly, July 20 2011

Nevertheless, Lee has managed to clamber upward—witness his current run for California Secretary of State.

Diversity Is Strength! It’s also…immigrant political corruption.

Brenda Walker lives in northern California and publishes the blog LimitsToGrowth.org.