The Sen. Leland Yee fiasco came just a tad early to coincide with April Fool’s Day, the annual opportunity every April 1 to prank and joke and try pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible.
If the affidavit is to be believed — and there’s no reason yet not to — Yee certainly has that last caveat down when it comes to his colleagues and constituents. Yet sadly, Yee’s fantastical dilemma is far from a laughing matter. Except if you ponder the nickname “Shrimp Boy.” That alone is pretty hilarious. Note to self: childhood nicknames, like unfortunately themed T-shirts in mug shots, will always come back to haunt you. Criminal masterminds, plan accordingly.
The Shrimp Boy aspect itself is a gold mine. The name. The tweets. The Facebook hot tub photos. The news anchors and pundits trying to keep a straight face while referring to him as such. This sad day for public trust and honesty is a great day for budding comics and screenwriters mining reality for fictional inspiration.
Shrimp Boy and Uncle Leland and gunrunning aside, the apparent fall of yet another elected leader is nothing to joke about. Unless, of course, we are talking about the part where a letter of support from him has the going rate of $10,000. That price tag draws a guffaw or two. Jeez, I’ll knock one out for $50. Maybe $60 if I’m expected to use the big fancy words.
Then there’s his apparent envy of the undercover officer’s life. Yee allegedly wanted to throw everything to the wind and run away to the Philippines. I’m sure his wife and children are thrilled to know how much they count.
It’s also hard not to chuckle a little looking back at the causes and legislation for which Yee took up arms, pun fully intended. The firearm legislation obviously smacks of hypocrisy. But what about that 2005 push to strengthen cleanliness standards for nail salons? Was Yee lying to Paula Abdul and the California people all along, publicly demanding hygiene while secretly trading in dirty cuticle clippers and sketchy emery boards for the right price? Sure, Yee and company might be looking at prison time but the mani-pedi set is facing an unknown future with every buff and polish.
Ah, this indictment is like journalist Christmas. Don’t think we news scribes won’t milk it for all it’s worth — at least until the next public figure shows off clay feet. Chances are, though, it’s going to take quite a fall from grace to knock Yee’s arrest out of top billing for best political scandal in recent memory. Straight bribery is so passé. Arms trafficking to help wipe away one campaign price tag and finance another, however? Most probably never thought Yee had it in him.
Yet again, this shouldn’t be funny. Staffers are in employment jeopardy, constituents want to know if the seat will just sit empty for the remaining year until it dissolves and taxpayers are fuming that Yee and the two other suspended senators are allowed to continue collecting paychecks while their legal drama plays out. Local candidates for the June ballot who received an endorsement from Yee scrambled to remove mentions and photos from websites and campaign materials while around the county many are quick to say they never really knew or liked Yee anyway. If that’s true, though, as one officials recently asked me, how in the heck did he ever get voted into office? Apparently somebody somewhere felt he was a good fit.
Again, hindsight is not only 20/20 but can also be ill timed — and unintentionally comical. The League of Women Voter’s April 2014 newsletter includes a Feb. 4 interview with Yee. He addresses his priorities, the environmental, education and — the best part — money in politics. To quote, “I absolutely plan on working to diminish the power of dark money in politics.” And then this gem: The way our world is now, we can move millions of dollars in seconds with almost no trace. We have to work against this so that we know who is financing propositions and backing candidates.”
Yee may have been a bit early for Tuesday’s celebrating but when it comes to picking fool’s, he’s looking like this year’s gold standard
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.