Like a criminal wiping down a crime scene, the California State Senate has scrubbed its website and deleted the online archives of three Democratic state Senators that face criminal charges ranging from weapons trafficking to public corruption.
As of April 5 at 7:00 PM, the websites of Democratic Senators Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ron Calderon of Montebello, and Rod Wright of Inglewood, all of whom have been placed on paid leave, no longer include any mention of the disgraced lawmakers.
The website removal is a devastating blow to journalists and members of the public, who will no longer be able to investigate past votes, bills and legislative connections of the disgraced lawmakers.
Attempt to cover up for other State Senators?
It remains unclear why the State Senate deleted the web archives of the disgraced Senators. However, several other California lawmakers have been cited in the ongoing public corruption cases involving Senators Yee and Calderon.
Incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, has admitted that he was served with a subpoena in the Ron Calderon corruption case. De Leon, who is mentioned 49 times in the FBI’s 124-page complaint against Calderon, is believed to have arranged a $25,000 payment from the Latino Caucus to a nonprofit controlled by Ron Calderon’s brother, Tom.
“As set forth below, Senator de Leon caused $25,000 to be contributed to Californians for Diversity, the California corporation controlled by Thomas Calderon in exchange for Ronald Calderon not to challenge Senator Lara to become the Chairman of the Latino Caucus,” the FBI affidavit states.
Kevin de Leon: CA Senate “Best Legislative Institution in the Country”
The maneuver comes within days of de Leon declaring that the California State Senate is the best institution in the country.
“There is no greater political legislative body in this land than the California State Legislature… and that includes the US Congress and the U.S. Senate,” de Leon said during the Senate’s recent debate to suspend the Senators with pay. “This is an amazing legislative body, a body I love. You are all fine individuals.”
“This is the best legislative institution in the country, hands down,” he said. “We’re going through very difficult times, and we’re going to get past this.”
De Leon isn’t alone in having a motivation to wipe the online records of the State Senate. Last month, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff disclosed that he potentially met with an undercover FBI agent as a part of the Yee investigation.
Thwart public, press from investigating
In addition to pictures and video clips, the websites also contained substantial information detailing the Senators’ votes and known legislative ties, which could implicate other members of the Senate.
As recently as Friday, April 4, CalNewsroom.com had used Yee’s website and web archives to analyze his legislative history. In contrast to his public image as a gun control advocate, Yee had never successfully passed a gun control bill during his 11 year career in the state legislature. Other outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, have published Yee’s most hypocritical press releases.
Paradoxically, Yee, who has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in open government, had assembled one of the legislature’s most comprehensive and detailed web archives. CalNewsroom.com was compiling an analysis of Yee’s connection to the Philippines. That analysis can no longer occur following the State Senate’s data wipe.
Misinformation, revisionist history by CA State Senate
In addition to deleting information, the State Senate has provided a misleading explanation for the absence of a direct reference to Yee.
“SD8 is considered an accelerated area currently represented by Senator Mark Leno and Senator Jerry Hill,” the website for the 8th State Senate district now reads. “These unique circumstances create some areas of overlap between the old and new districts (“accelerated areas”) and some areas without coverage (“deferred areas”).”
It is unclear whether the web archives for the Senators have been permanently deleted or the public’s access to specific files has been revoked. Attempts to access Wright’s biography at the web address, “http://sd35.senate.ca.gov/biography” produced a response that read, “Access denied. You are not authorized to access this page.”
However, other web pages, such as the press release section of Ron Calderon’s website delivered a webpage that read, “PAGE NOT FOUND. The requested page could not be found.”
State Senate did not respond to request for comment
A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg did not respond to an email request for comment Saturday night.
Referred to as “Uncle Leland” by his co-conspirators, the San Francisco Democrat allegedly offered to smuggle millions of dollars worth of automatic weapons into the United States from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines in exchange for campaign contributions, according to the FBI affidavit.
In February, Senator Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was charged with a 24-count indictment in connection with bribery and corruption. In January, Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, was found guilty of eight felonies in connection with living outside of his district. Wright’s case did not involve any allegations of bribery or corruption.
Cross-posted at CalNewsRoom.com.