Is Darrell Steinberg the Best Choice for Appellate Court Judge?
California Democratic politician Jesse Unruh’s famous description of Sacramento lobbyists still rings true today: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their liquor, steal their women, and then vote against them, you have no business being up here”. Unruh also said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”
Remembering these cynical thoughts, California voters have a few people to thank for preserving Unruh’s status quo — and former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is one of many.
The California Globe reported Tuesday that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced that he is currently being scouted by longtime political ally California Gov. Gavin Newsom for a judicial seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals despite not having practiced law. almost three decades.
Some speculate that Steinberg is really feeling the heat as mayor of Sacramento and is looking for a soft landing rather than running for another political office. Steinberg’s record as mayor has been built on failed policies, including his disastrous homelessness policies, which have only increased the Capitol City’s homeless population to greater than that of San Francisco, now spread to residential areas, parks and along rivers.
Steinberg’s true record should be considered before he wins a prestigious judgeship—he is a politician, not a jurist.
Looking back a few years, the California Senate scandals while Steinberg was Senate President in 2013 and 2014 were legendary, as was the gross abuse of consequences.
Here’s a primer on the hair scandals during Steinberg’s time as Senate President:
- Sen. Leland Yee: In 2014 state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco was indicted on federal charges of corruption, racketeering and arms trafficking. Known as the “California Senate’s Lead Gun Control Advocate,” Yee was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven federal crimes, including bribery and illegal firearms and weapons trafficking. Yee wasn’t just trafficking in pearl-handled pea shooters—he was indicted for involvement in the trafficking of shoulder-mounted rockets. In addition to being known as one of the leading proponents of gun control in California, Yee was accused of working with Chinatown gangsters and brokering arms deals with a Muslim rebel group based in the Philippines. Yea served only five years in prison and was released in 2020.
- Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted on federal corruption charges. According to the FBI’s indictment, Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted approximately $100,000 in cash bribes, airline trips, gourmet dinners and trips to golf resorts in exchange for pro-legislation favorable to those paying the bribes and opposing legislation that would to be harmful to them. . The indictment further alleged that Calderon tried to persuade other public officials to support and oppose the legislation. Calderon was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge and admitting to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for performing official acts as a lawmaker.
- Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about his legal residency in Los Angeles County. Wright was convicted of eight counts of perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his district and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Wright served just one hour in jail and two and a half years on probation.
- Ironically, just a few hours later State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, voted to kill California’s growing industry, he was arrested for driving under the influence. Hueso was sentenced to three years of “informal probation,” ordered to attend a six-week alcohol education program and fined $240 plus penalties — not exactly a drunken driving fine the average voter would receive .
Shortly after Steinberg, Senate President Pro-tem Kevin De Leon conducted a mass firing of Senate staff after Steinberg left him with massive debt. According to many Capitol insiders, Steinberg didn’t want to be the bad guy who would execute the necessary vacations.
This is the opposite of leadership. Being on top is not easy. But along with the title, Steinberg should have the backbone to make the decisions needed to keep the Senate on budget and on a solid human resources footing.
It appears that Steinberg has not managed money or staff well.
But there is more.
The Senate’s Internal Human Resources Scandal
In the spring of 2014, an anonymous letter was sent to several California state senators with concerns about staffing practices and allegations of nepotism. The State Senate erupted in scandal. The Senate Human Resources Department was accused of gross nepotism with allegations that friends and family of top administrators had special access to taxpayer-funded jobs.
“Court records showed that one of the Senate’s internal law enforcement officers had cocaine and marijuana in his system the night he was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting outside his Greenhaven-area home,” reported the Sacramento Bee. “The officer is the son of the Senate’s long-time human resources chief. Gerardo Lopez worked for the Senate for 15 years, despite run-ins with the law that included a citation for petty theft and drunken driving charges.
“Lopez was fired over drug use revelations, but he wasn’t the only one with family ties to top Senate administrators.”
Dina Hidalgo, as head of human resources for the Senate, played a major role in hiring friends and relatives — more than 40. Her immediate supervisor, Greg Schmidt, the Senate’s top administrator, had his own issues of nepotism:
• Schmidt’s son, Jeffrey, has worked for the Senate since February 2010, during which time his salary increased nearly 63 percent after he switched jobs.
• Schmidt’s daughter-in-law, Beth Schmidt, worked part-time for the Assembly for nine years until 2016. During most of her work at the California Capitol, Beth Schmidt was allowed to telecommute from her home near Salem, Ore.
• Schmidt’s nephew, Kevin, worked for the Senate for three years and then worked for Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Bee reported.
The Senate spent $98,000 of taxpayer money to pay a private law firm to investigate this nepotism scandal. And under Steinberg, the Senate refused to release the final report on how Hildalgo and other Senate staffers abused their positions of authority “to hire, protect and coddle friends and family,” Bee said.
As Senate president, it was well known that Steinberg was shopping for another elected office. He opened a committee for Lt. Governor and expressed interest in being Sacramento County District Attorney as well as Mayor.
Capitol insiders were amazed at his audacity, as it was clear that Steinberg mismanaged the State Senate’s budget and personnel. Imagining the disaster Steinberg would create as Mayor of Sacramento or as Sacramento County District Attorney was unimaginable.
Steinberg’s real record is one of leaving his mess behind for others to clean up. Does Darrell Steinberg sound like a judge arbitrating the law, or a politician to be judged?
For more on Steinberg’s record, read:
Mayor lets BLM take over, turns Sacramento city council meeting into chaos from 2018.
Steinberg calls for CEQA changes to push the Sacto arena from 2013 and politicians seek special environmental deals at the arena.
Sacramento Mayor Steinberg spends $23 million on another homeless hotel.
For the California Globe’s coverage of Steinberg, click here.