SACRAMENTO – A portion of the bribe money federal prosecutors say undercover FBI agents gave to state Sen. Leland Yee made its way into public campaign finance disclosures.
The Times found $17,300 in contributions that match the dates and amounts, and sometimes circumstances, of payments detailed in an FBI agent’s affidavit released the day the veteran lawmaker was arrested in a sting operation.
According to that affidavit, the money was intended to buy influence for the New Jersey mob, secure state business, foster legislation governing marijuana dispensaries and help set up an international arms deal.
The FBI money involved fictitious donors, fake jobs and phony employers, as well as return addresses that led to mailbox drops at shopping centers.
At the bidding of an undercover agent posing as a Georgia real estate investor who said he was seeking future political favors, 10 agents staged a purported fundraiser for Yee’s 2011 San Francisco mayoral race. That day and the next, the lawmaker’s campaign reported $500 checks from 10 businessmen whose identifications included a Chicago solar power investor, Las Vegas film producer and Atlanta real estate executive. None of the named companies show up in incorporation records in those states.
According to the affidavit, the contributions were accompanied by a $500 check from the undercover agent. His September 2011 check matched a contribution Yee reported from a man in Georgia named “Michael A. King,” presumably a pseudonym being used by the agent. The address on the contribution leads to a rented box at a UPS Store.
Another agent meeting with Yee posed as an East Coast mobster, according to the affidavit. Payments that agent allegedly made in 2013 to secure a Senate proclamation honoring a Chinatown crime leader’s social organization match contributions made by a New York-based company called Madison International Enterprises.
The federal complaint details a $5,000 check to Yee’s secretary of state campaign in May 2013 and another $1,800 donation to the campaign two months later. Contributions from Madison International Enterprises were reported on the same dates in the same amounts.
The affidavit says most of the alleged transactions were in cash or wired directly to the bank account of Yee’s political consultant, sometimes in amounts that would have violated campaign finance limits.
Yee often protested that what agents sought for their money amounted to illegal “pay for play” politics, according to the federal document. But in each case, the senator or his representative allegedly took the money and asked for more.
“I would simply say that as long as you cover your tracks ... you’re fine.... But if you don’t think you can do that, don’t do it,” the affidavit quotes Yee telling an agent who voiced concern about keeping his contributions hidden.
But, the senator allegedly also said, “We’ve gotta get the money.”