California State Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco), who was well known for his efforts to make government more transparent and enact gun control legislation, was arrested Wednesday on charges that he asked for campaign donations in exchange for setting up a meeting between undercover FBI agents and a known arms trafficker.
Yee has a history with Turlock’s California State University, Stanislaus.
In 2010, Yee demanded public records be released for a $75,000 speaking contract between former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the CSU Stanislaus Foundation. Palin was hired to speak at the university’s 50th Anniversary Gala.
TurlockCityNews.com reported on May 12, 2010 that Yee was chair of the Select Committee on Open Meetings and Public Record Laws, and requested nearly 900 documents regarding the Palin visit via the Public Records Act. A media uproar ensued when Yee announced that he believed the documents proved university officials had violated the California Public Records Act by not disclosing documents requested. TurlockCityNews.com reported that Yee believed the funds used to pay Palin’s speaking fee where illegally used.
“The Foundation sought out Palin as a speaker and will be paying her, it says, out of funds solicited specifically for that purpose, and not with taxpayer funds,” Yee wrote at the time. “But the Foundation is a virtual alter ego of the University, with its office in the campus administration building, using University equipment and other resources, and with a staff comprised of University employees. The (then-)President of the University, Dr. Hamid Shirvani, is chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. By law he must examine and approve all expenditures made by the Foundation. The University’s Vice-President for Advancement is the Foundation’s Executive Director and the University’s Vice-President for Business and Finance is the Foundation’s Treasurer. For all intents and purposes, the Foundation and University are indistinguishable.”
Following Palin’s appearance Yee was heralded for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection legislation.
Last week he was honored by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist, which gave him an award for his efforts to maintain the California Public Records Act.
The SPJ recognition cited Yee's "courage to oppose his own Democratic Party leaders and the governor" for their efforts to weaken transparency laws.
The FBI says Yee accepted $42,800 in cash or campaign contributions from an undercover agent in exchange for allegedly agreeing to help agents obtain $500,000 to $2.5 million worth of shoulder-fired automatic weapons and missiles. Yee allegedly introduced the agent to a Muslim separatist group based in the Philippines.
Yee was allegedly seeking money in an apparent attempt to repay a $70,000 campaign debt from a failed bid for San Francisco mayor in 2011.