State Senate’s ethics review is tomorrow

The state Senate will hold its special ethics review and self-flagellation session Wednesday, following the conviction of one senator and the indictment of two others.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced the special day last month; all senators and staffers are required to attend.

The Senate voted 28-1 on March 28 to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. Yee, D-San Francisco, has been indicted for allegedly selling official favors and conspiring to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted last month on bribery charges. Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.

Steinberg’s office says the meetings “will be closed sessions to facilitate frank discussions and candid interactive dialogue among the participants,” though Steinberg and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff will hold a news conference late Wednesday morning.

The group sessions will include a presentation on “Creating a Culture of Ethics – A National Perspective” by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts at Drake University. The nonprofit Josephson Institute works with corporations, governmental agencies and professionals on strengthening standards of conduct in individual and institutional decision-making.

There will also be a panel discussion of the “Challenges of Legal Ethics in a Legislative Environment” facilitated by three attorneys with expertise in political and campaign issues: Lance Olson of Olson & Hagel, who advises some of the state’s foremost Democrats; Charles Bell Sr. of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, general counsel to the California Republican Party; and John Panneton, a former federal prosecutor. The panel will present hypothetical scenarios that raise potential ethical and legal issues; those scenarios will also be used by senate chiefs of staff, committee chief consultants and office directors as they lead staff discussions in individual Capitol offices later Wednesday.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Willis James

    I wonder if Darrell Steinberg will make any mention of the $15,000 he donated to the Senator Rod Wright Defense Fund, the last $5,000 of which was handed over just last November.

    Only a couple months later, the feigned “outrage” from Steinberg at how these senators were ruining the good name of the institution.

    I guess that wasn’t the case when he gave Sen Wright the $15,000 for his defense.

  • Elwood

    Would you agree that State Senate ethics is an oxymoron?

  • Marga

    The problem is that too many politicians don’t know the difference between what’s legal and what’s ethical. Rather than asking themselves whether an action is ethical, their question they care about is whether they can get away with doing something, regardless of whether it’s the ethical thing to do. That’s why we have central committees of both parties basically laundering money for candidates and what we hear from them is “it’s not illegal”.

    The only way to change the culture of unethical behavior among our leaders is for voters to punish candidates that have behaved unethically. But they first must know about it – and that’s a job for the press. We have all these disclosures, but someone needs to go through them and make connections.

    Now, I fully recognize that it’s not cost-effective for news organizations to do investigative reporting on issues of only local interest. I’m not sure what the answer about that is.

  • Willis James

    The central committees have yet to come to grips with the top two system. No longer will a narrow group force the voters to have only 1 choice come November.
    That kind of closed insulated world has led to the ability of unethical behavior to go unchallenged because everyone had to be on board with the chosen ones.

    It was also that kind of unethical behavior that allowed central committees to support party leader’s in their attempts to overturn the new redistricting commission.
    Nodding heads blindly and obediently following the likes of John Burton and his efforts to destroy our chances for fair elections.
    Local legislators going along for the ride without objections from central committees.

    They actually think winning is more important than upholding our democratic process. A twisted decline in morals developed over decades.