California Senate seeks to double financial penalty in bribery cases

California Senate seeks to double financial penalty in bribery cases
State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), left, speaks on a bill, while Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) works at his desk at the Capitol before the two were suspended in March over corruption charges. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

With two of its members accused of accepting payments for favors, the California Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would double the restitution fines for legislators and city council members convicted of accepting a bribe in exchange for influence on official action.

The Senate voted 30 to 1 to approve the legislation by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). The legislation also would prohibit elected officials from paying restitution in bribery cases from their campaign accounts.

"I applaud the full Legislature for joining with me in making a statement that political bribery and corruption will not be tolerated and those who break the law must pay a higher price and must pay out of their personal funds for violating the law and the public's trust," Garcia said in support of AB 1666.

The measure was previously approved by the Assembly but goes back there for concurrence on amendments.

The amount of restitution fines would become double the amount of the bribe received or $20,000, whichever is greater.

Garcia represents some of the same area as state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello), who was indicted earlier this year on federal charges of accepting $88,000 in bribes in exchange for action on extending a tax credit for the film industry and changing the rules on workers' compensation.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested in March and has been indicted by a federal grand jury of accepting $62,000 in campaign contributions in return for favors, and offering to arrange the sale of machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob figure.

The legislation, which would take effect Jan. 1, is not retroactive and would change the fines in state court cases, so it would not affect Yee and Calderon, who are charged with violating federal law.

Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), who has sought unsuccessfully to have Yee and Calderon expelled, was the lone vote against the bill.

"I'm not supporting any of this windowdressing," Anderson said. "None of this would have stopped the senators who ran afoul of the law."

Twitter: @mcgreevy99