SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — State Senator Leland Yee’s arrest Wednesday opens an unexpected chapter in the career of an accomplished lawmaker who has previously been targeted by accusations of wrongdoing.
Representing District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County, Yee was the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate, according to his biography. He had previously served as the District 12 state assemblyman, San Francisco District 4 supervisor and as the head of the San Francisco School Board.
The 2-term senator has passed 181 pieces of legislation, advocating on behalf of education funding, mental health services and consumer protections. Following KPIX 5 reports, Yee also pushed for reforms to the California ‘Bullet Button’ loophole law for stronger assault weapons regulations. His gun control efforts led to at least one death threat against him.
Lee has also gained notoriety for his opposition to proposed legislation banning shark fin sales and for pushing through heavy fines for speeders on some of San Francisco most dangerous traffic corridors.
Yee has also faced several accusations of misconduct or outright criminal activity. According to the San Francisco Chronicle he was twice pulled over in 1999 on suspicion of cruising for prostitutes. He said at the time that those were incidents of mistaken identity, and no charges were ever filed. Hawaiian police officers say Yee was once arrested in 1992 for shoplifting an 8 ounce bottle of suntan oil from a store. He was reportedly taken downtown and booked for the $8 theft, but charges were never pursued after he returned to San Francisco, where he was a School Board member at the time.
In a 2011 article profiling Yee as a San Francisco mayoral candidate the San Francisco Weekly accused Yee of “a series of possible ethical breaches so numerous and bizarre that voters might feel compelled to seek out extraordinary accomplishments to balance out his weird record.”
The SF Weekly also accused Yee of close ties with donors and raised questions about how his stated income could possibly cover his existing debts. It also claims he was ordered to remove his children from a San Francisco public school when it was revealed that his children’s listed address was not the same as what was listed on his voter registration card.