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Commentary: “For The Love of Money” by Assemblyman Hagman

Posted by Allen Wilson on April 28, 2014

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Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) offers his thoughts regarding the corruption scandals of Senators Calderon, Wright and Yee that made headlines the past few months.

Hagman represents the 55th Assembly District and currently candidate for San Bernardino County Supervisor.

Recently, news of yet ANOTHER state senator being indicted for corruption sent shockwaves throughout California. When I heard the charges against San Francisco’s Leland Yee, I shook my head in disbelief. Could a man known for his gun control efforts be part of an international gun trafficking ring? We do not know all the facts, but I do know that the charges against him are so serious that the Legislature cannot pretend that it should conduct business as usual.

The troubles of three state senators now mean that more than 10 percent of the Democrat members of the State Senate are either under indictment or have been convicted of a felony. Senator Yee joins two other senators who are also facing serious legal trouble. One senator is facing bribery charges while another was recently convicted of a felony for lying about his residency – as he resides outside the district he represents.

And how did the Senate respond? They voted for Senate Resolution 38, which gave all three senators paid vacations. The Resolution also plans to give all senators and their staff additional ethics training. Presumably they will be told that trafficking rocket launchers, taking bribes and making deals with mobsters is inappropriate at any time. To be fair, the State Constitution currently gives no authority to the Senate to suspend legislators without pay and President Pro Tem Steinberg is proposing a constitutional amendment to finally fix that issue. I’m astounded this has not happened sooner.

All legislators understand the law and take an oath to follow it. However, no amount of ethics training will prevent a crooked politician from doing the “wrong thing.” According to the FBI affidavit against Senator Yee, he was well aware of the laws he was breaking. At one point, the senator reportedly said on tape, “I hope I don’t get indicted.”

Ultimately, all three senators should resign from office to remove the thick fog of corruption hanging over the State Capitol. As long as they are allowed to remain in office, it will be much more difficult to make progress on the issues that matter to all Californians such as jobs and public safety. The public is already deeply cynical about government and the least elected representatives can do is take responsibility for their actions.

Unfortunately, it is hard to ignore the fact that the alleged corruption took place in a political environment where one party has absolute control over Sacramento. As that popular saying goes, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When one party is accountable to no one, it makes it much more tempting for some to overreach and abuse the power entrusted to them by the citizens.

I have spent years as a volunteer for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department and have seen firsthand that sitting behind bars is the last thing anyone wants to do. Perhaps all elected officials should take a prison field trip as part of our annual training? It would be a more powerful lesson than ethics training and suspension with pay.

I know that Californians are sick and tired of the mess in Sacramento and want to see an end to the culture of corruption. Elected officials need to be held accountable to the people of their district and the citizens of California. You, the voter, can help by electing men and women with integrity and character – who will do what’s right even when the FBI isn’t eavesdropping.

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