The one-time conservative supervisor is gaining broad progressive support. But who is Leland Yee, really?
Since 1993, for example, campaign finance records show Yee has taken more than $20,000 from Chevron, ExxonMobil, Valero, Conoco Phillips, and BP. He's received another $22,450 from the chemical industry (and industry employees). Most of it came from Clorox, Dow Chemical, and Dupont.
And while the Sierra Club may not have considered it a priority, Sen. Mark Leno has worked hard to pass a bill limiting chemical fire retardants in furniture. In 2008, Yee voted against Leno's AB 706.
That year he also refused to support a bill that would prohibit the use of the chemical diacetyl in workplaces. The industries that opposed AB 514 (including Bayer, Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) have given Yee a total of more than $60,000.
In 2003, Yee voted against a crucial tenant bill, one that would have prevented the owners of single room occupancy hotels from using the Ellis Act to evict tenants. He received a campaign check for $2,500 from the San Francisco Apartment Association the next day. Landlords in general have given Yee close to $40,000.
Then there's agribusiness. Yee gets a lot of money from the farming industry, despite the fact that there obviously aren't many farms in his district. Why, for example, would the California Poultry Association, the California Cattlemen's Association, and the California Farm Bureau give him money? The Poultry Association's Bill Mattos told us that Yee "has taken a keen interest in California's poultry industry."
Yee also took immense flak from the San Francisco Chronicle and other papers over a 2003 vote against a bill to limit emissions from farm vehicles. In an editorial, the paper wrote that he was "doing dirty work for the lobbyists." In the end, under immense public pressure, he switched positions and voted for the bill. I asked Yee about all that money from all those bad operators, and he told me — as most politicians will — that campaign cash has never influenced any of his votes.
So why do all these groups give him money? "It's about whether you will sit down and listen," Yee said. "I will talk to all sides and at least consider the arguments as a thoughtful human being. Then I vote my conscience." (Tim Redmond, with research by Oona Robertson)