There are far worse crimes than Wright's

The state senator who was found guilty of misstating where he lives should be booted out but not locked up.

SACRAMENTO — Pardon me if I haven't gotten all worked up about Sen. Rod Wright being convicted of lying about where he lives.

A politician fudging his residency to make people think he lives in his district? Shock, shock!

Happens a lot. But district attorneys seldom prosecute. Most feel there are much worse crimes to chase.

Should these politicians get away with it? No, not in an ideal world.

But district lines shift. They're redrawn every 10 years to fit population changes.

Should it even be the law that a candidate live in a legislative district before he runs to represent it in Sacramento? That's worthy of debate.

Members of Congress don't need to reside in their districts. The U.S. Constitution only requires them to live in the state.

But yes, in theory, it's better that a legislator live among the people he represents — go to the same dry cleaner, the same church, the same bar. Get a feel for local needs.

Nice concept. But it breaks down out in the sticks. Districts can sprawl for dozens, even hundreds of miles.

One state senator, for example, represents 11 counties, stretching from the Oregon border to south of Lake Tahoe and dipping down into the Sacramento suburbs. Another district climbs from Bakersfield over the top of the Sierra into Bishop. Bakersfield and Bishop have about as much in common as Burbank and Barstow.

Wright, 61, a career pol who should have known better, was found guilty of falsely claiming a rented room in a modest Inglewood home that he owns as his official "domicile" — in essence, his main personal hangout.

In reality, when not in Sacramento, the Democrat lives outside his district in a nice house in upscale Baldwin Hills. There with his collectibles, artwork and three luxury cars.

Wright told me the law "is about as clear as mud."

"It doesn't say anything about the nicest house," he said. "It doesn't talk about where you park your Maserati."

The law says a person must be able to vote in a legislative district before he can become a candidate there. And he can only register to vote where his domicile is. A domicile, the law explains, sort of, is where his "habitation is fixed" — the place where he intends to remain and return. And only one domicile is allowed per person.

Mud maybe.

But the law's clear enough that any politician should get the idea: Its purpose is to require legislative candidates to live in the district. And although many believe they can play semantic games and avoid the law, it's a risk — as Wright's jury showed — that is not worth taking.

He was convicted of eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud. The jury found that the lawmaker was a lawbreaker.

Yes, laws should be obeyed. And violators should be punished.

If the verdict isn't overturned by the judge or on appeal, the guilty one should pay — if for no other reason than to deter other politicians from similar recklessness.

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