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Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. (Photo: Steve Aunan for California Globe)

Is Darrell Steinberg the Best Choice for Appellate Court Judge?

Steinberg’s Senate scandals left a dark stain on the State Capitol in 2014

By Katy Grimes, December 28, 2022 8:21 am

California Democratic politician Jesse Unruh’s famous description of Sacramento lobbyists rings true even today: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw 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 maintaining the Unruh status quo – and former Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is one of the many.

The California Globe reported Tuesday that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced he is currently being vetted by longtime political ally California Governor Gavin Newsom for a judicial seat on the Third District Court of Appeals, despite not having practiced law for nearly three decades.

Some presume that Steinberg is really feeling the heat as Sacramento Mayor, and looking for a soft landing instead of running for another political office. Steinberg’s record as Mayor has been wrought with failed policies, including his disastrous homeless policies which have only grown the Capitol city’s homeless population to the larger than San Francisco’s, now spilling over into residential neighborhoods, parks and along rivers.

Steinberg’s real record should be considered before he lands a prestigious judgeship – he’s a politician, and 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 mishandling of the aftermath.

Here is a primer on the hair-raising scandals while Steinberg was Senate President:

  • Sen. Leland Yee: In 2014 State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco was brought up on federal corruption charges, racketeering, and arms dealing. Known as “California Senate’s Top Gun Control Advocate,” Yee was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on seven federal felonies including bribery, and arms trafficking in illegal firearms and weapons. Yee wasn’t just trafficking in tiny pearl handle pea shooters – he was indicted for being involved in trafficking shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. In addition to being known as one of California’s leading proponents of gun control, 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 indictment, Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted approximately $100,000 in cash bribes, plane trips, gourmet dinners, and trips to golf resorts, in exchange supporting legislation favorable to those who paid the bribes, and opposing legislation that would be harmful to them. The indictment further alleged that Calderon attempted to convince other public officials to support and oppose legislation. Calderon was sentenced to 3½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge and admitting that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for performing official acts as a legislator.
  • Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about his legal residence in Los Angeles County. Wright was convicted of eight counts of perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his district and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Wright only served an hour in jail and two-an-a-half years of probation.
  • Ironically,  just hours after State Senator Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, voted to kill California’s burgeoning ride-share industry, he was arrested for driving under the influence. Hueso was sentenced to three years of “informal probation,” ordered to participate in a six-week alcohol education program, and fined $240 plus penalties – not exactly a fine for drunk driving the average voter would get.

Immediately following Steinberg, Senate President pro tem Kevin De Leon performed a mass firing of Senate staffers as Steinberg left him with massive debt. According to many Capitol insiders, Steinberg didn’t want to be the bad guy executing necessary layoffs.

That’s the opposite of leadership. Being in charge isn’t easy. But along with the title, Steinberg should have had the backbone to make the decisions needed to keep the Senate in budget and on solid human resource footing.

It appears Steinberg didn’t manage money or staff well.

But there is more.

The Senate’s Internal HR Scandal

In Spring 2014, an anonymous letter was sent to several California state senators with concerns about personnel practices and allegations of nepotism. The State Senate exploded in scandal. The Senate Human Resources department was accused of gross nepotism with claims that friends and family of key administrators got special access to taxpayer-funded jobs.

“Court records showed one of the Senate’s in-house 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,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “The officer is the son of the Senate’s longtime head of human resources. Gerardo Lopez worked for the Senate for 15 years despite brushes with the law that include a citation for petty theft and charges of drunken driving.”

“Lopez was fired over the drug-use revelations, but he was not the only one with family ties to key Senate administrators.”

Dina Hidalgo, as head of human resources for the Senate played a major role in hiring friends and relatives – upwards of more than 40. Her immediate supervisor, Greg Schmidt, the Senate’s top administrator, had his own nepotism issues:

• Schmidt’s son Jeffrey worked for the Senate since February 2010, during which time his salary increased nearly 63 percent as he changed jobs.

• Schmidt’s daughter-in-law Beth Schmidt worked part time for the Assembly for nine years until 2016. During most of her employment in the California Capitol, Beth Schmidt was allowed to work remotely from her home near Salem, Ore.

• Schmidt’s nephew Kevin worked for the Senate for three years and then worked for Lt. 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’s direction, the Senate refused to release the final report of how Hildalgo and other Senate employees abused their positions of authority “to hire, protect and coddle friends and family,” the Bee said.

While 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’s District Attorney as well as Mayor.

Capitol insiders were stunned at his bravado as it was painfully obvious that Steinberg mismanaged the State Senate budget and personnel. Imagining the disaster Steinberg would create as Sacramento Mayor or as Sacramento County’s District Attorney was unthinkable.

Steinberg’s real record is one of leaving calamity behind him for others to clean up. Does Darrell Steinberg sound like a judge who arbitrates the law, or a politician who should be judged?

For more on Steinberg’s record, read:

Mayor Lets BLM Take Over, Turn Sacramento City Council Meeting Into Riot from 2018.

Steinberg seeks CEQA changes to boost Sacto arena from 2013, and Politicians seek special enviro deal on arena. 

Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Spending $23 Million on Another Homeless Hotel.

For California Globe coverage of Steinberg, click here.

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20 thoughts on “Is Darrell Steinberg the Best Choice for Appellate Court Judge?

  1. Like most, if not all, of the current “leadership” he should be imprisoned, with no favors or privileges, for a very long time.

  2. Katy, I don’t see what the problem is. He meets Gov Gav’s prerequisite of a corrupt resume. Take your pick of one of the scandals he has been tied to and you will see he is the perfect guy to take a bribe!
    He is California “good”.

  3. Corrupt, Greedy, known liar, Biased, side of power and control, elitist, and never has a real solution to a problem – He is perfect democrat for Activist Judge that will judge based on bias politics over law

  4. Has this man no shame? He is a bully who shouts down citizens who come before the council. He is single handedly destroying our city. He must be stopped.

  5. The post of state appellate judge is obviously a serious and vital one. For the corrupt and ridiculous politician Gavin Newsom to threaten the appointment of another corrupt and ridiculous politician, long-time ne’er-do-well Darrell Steinberg, to such an important role, seems like nothing more than next-level rubbing-our-noses-in-it B.S. by the Usual Suspects of our current Dem/Marxist ruling class. Sort of like the Grampy Joe Administration appointing ludicrous luggage-thief Sam Brinton and clownish cross-dressing Dr. Rachel Levine to presidential cabinet posts. Giving the finger to Americans is their sadistic idea of fun.

  6. Katy, great summary. In my twenty years as a staffer in the Legislature I count Steinberg as the most corrupt by my own personal experience as the GOP consultant on Assembly Labor and Employment. He and his staff lied about everything and never kept their word on anything. He fails to meet the very lowest common denominator in legislative politics–your word. It is the code of honor among thieves as well as the good and honest. Steinberg ought to entered as a new word for crook in the dictionary. -Of course, the Orwellians raise him up as a judicial giant.

  7. While Darrell Steinberg was a Democrat Assemblyman, he authored Proposition 63, the California Mental Health Services Act, which was approved by California voters on the November 2004 statewide ballot and which greatly benefited his Steinberg Institute for mental health. Charity Navigator gave the Steinberg Institute a two-star rating with the caveat that it needs improvement. In 2021 as mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg backed a legislative proposal that would make Sacramento the first city in California to end zoning that permits only the construction of one single-family home and he was one of eleven U.S. mayors to form Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity (MORE), a coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to starting pilot reparations programs in their cities. Instead of being considered as a judge of the Appellate Court, some of us Sacramento natives think that Darrell Steinberg needs to be held accountable for helping turn the once pleasant city of Sacramento into a crime infested hellhole with crumbling infrastructure?

    1. Samantha you were being nice. I was born in Sacramento and grew up in the Arcade area. What Steinberg has done to a once really nice ‘cow’ town is criminal. I cruised K, saw the Beach Boys at the Memorial Auditorium, went to Old Town for special events and the like. Downtown Sac was the go-to place for special shopping. No more! I live in the foothills and haven’t been to Sac for 5 to 10 years and have no plans to ever visit it again. I used to know where the ‘bad’ places were and avoided them, now the whole city is at times actually dangerous. Steinberg is scum to be nice. Crooked as the day is long. But he is liked by Newsom and a favorite if he wants to have a puppet in place for control. If anybody has any ideas on how to pushback, please identify them.

  8. Steinberg tried to steal part of local government’s sales tax revenue when he ran the State Senate. After he became mayor of Sacramento, he pushed the Strong Mayor for of government on the people of Sacramento. But the voters were not easily fooled and voted this power grab down.

  9. Has Darrell Steinberg ever had a real job other than being in government? He’s like the rest of the Democrat cabal in California who keep getting installed into different political positions usually with voter fraud and rigged voting machines? It’s time for him to stop being a burden on taxpayers and get a real job?

  10. Let us not forget that in those days political malfeasance was investigated and prosecuted. Today it is not. Theft, grift, influence peddling, anything short of murder is ignored.

  11. Really? If you have to ask the answer is no, and the short answer is NO. I can’t believe he would even be considered. But, of course, they don’t listen to us, do they?

    1. Have you noticed how many times during City Council meetings, Steinberg leaves the room the during the public comments? Members of the public have to wait hours to get their two minutes to express views, but this means nothing to Steinberg. He needs to get out of the public sphere completely and should never have access to another taxpayer dollar.

  12. steinberg looking for a new source of tax payer revenue. has he changed his mind about being the next emperor of cali-for-nia?

  13. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the rest of the Democrats on the Sacramento City Council mandated that employees under their purview be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Councilmembers Mai Vang and Katie Valenzuela along with community representatives made the announcement in August 2021. Darrell Steinberg and his Democrat cronies on the Sacramento City Council need to be held accountable and be brought before tribunals for crimes against humanity for mandating experimental mRNA shots that have injured and killed thousands of innocent people. They and their souls have a lot to answer for?

  14. Completely out of his league. A perfect pick to continue the tradition of the spoils system.
    Ina short time he will quit because he had no clue, but will stay long enough to boost his retirement on the state wallet.

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