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Was UFC the target of a shakedown by alleged Chinatown mob-linked pol over California State Athletic Commission?
By Zach Arnold | July 30, 2014
Yesterday was one of those days. Really. The kind of day where you write an article titled Feds allege Chinatown mob-linked pol extorted California State Athletic Commission for $. And you sit there and wonder about all of the unanswered questions. One can only imagine what it must be like right now to be on the inside of Consumer Affairs with a Federal indictment going public with such alarming allegations.
If you haven’t read our Tuesday article yet, go read it before you continue reading this article.
To catch up on what we wrote about yesterday: Disgraced California state senator Leland Yee, who had aspirations of becoming California’s next Secretary of State, was indicted by the Feds on a million different counts and those counts also involve high-profile members of the most powerful criminal organization in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Included in the indictment are allegations that Yee, along with his fundraising/consulting buddy Keith Jackson, supposedly extorted money from individuals who were trying to ensure passage in the state Senate of SB309, a bill that would prevent the California State Athletic Commission from getting sunsetted. CSAC getting sunsetted would have meant that Consumer Affairs would have taken all of their operations in-house with zero public disclosure and no transparency whatsoever.
The indictment claims that Yee and Jackson had meetings with two different people, Individuals A & B, who were looking to get the votes in the state Senate to keep CSAC up-and-running. The timing is important here. Andy Foster became the Executive Officer in November of 2012. The indictment claims that Yee and Jackson interacted with A & B in March of 2013. It seems likely that A & B will end up as witnesses for the major show trial involving Yee. Yee claims that he “did a number” on Individual A. Was Individual A really Andy Foster or someone from Consumer Affairs?
Let’s advance the story here from yesterday’s summary. In the Federal indictment, Yee is accused of a conspiracy to obtain property under the color of office. The filing claims that Yee & Jackson, from the time period of March 2013 through the end of December 2013, allegedly manipulated individuals who were trying to keep CSAC alive.
From the indictment:
From this point on and during the course of the conspiracy, Yee and Jackson had numerous discussions about Individual B and their plan for Yee and Jackson to lead Individual B to believe that Yee was inclined to vote against extending the CSAC; for Jackson to represent to Individual B that Jackson would lobby Yee on behalf of Individual B for donations to, and assistance in raising donations for, Yee’s Secretary of State campaign in exchange for Yee’s support of the CSAC. On several occasions, Yee instructed Jackson on what to say to Individual B in order to convince Individual B that Yee was inclined to vote against SB-309, that Jackson would potentially influence Yee to change his position, and that Individual B should assist Yee in raising money for Yee’s Secretary of State campaign.
During the course of the conspiracy, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Jackson had numerous conversations with Individual B in which Jackson represented that he had influence over Yee and was prepared to lobby Yee on behalf of Individual B in order to convince Yee to support the CSAC. As the conversations continued, Jackson represented to Individual B that he was having success in persuading Yee to change his position on extending the CSAC. As part of these conversations, Jackson asked Individual B to contribute money to Yee’s Secretary of State campaign; facilitate contacts with sports promoters who had an interest in the continued existence of the CSAC; convince the sports promoters to contribute to and raise money for Yee’s Secretary of State campaign; and facilitate contact with an individual who had purported influence in the California Democratic Party and could assist in Yee’s Secretary of State campaign.
During from the time from April 29, 2013 and the final vote on SB-309 in the Senate, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Jackson sought the assistance of another individual who had an interest in extending the term of the CSAC in raising money for Yee’s Secretary of State campaign.
In short, the alleged bad guys supposedly linked to Chinatown mobsters viewed keeping the California State Athletic Commission alive as an opportunity to get money out of one layer of individuals who then could theoretically turn around and bring in the major fight promoters who would, in turn, pony up cash for Yee’s campaign coffers while running for Secretary of State.
Who is Individual B? Is it a lobbyist from Zuffa? Is it someone who works directly in Zuffa? We will eventually find out when the show trial happens. But there may be a clue in the indictment summary of how the Athletic Commission functions.
The CSAC exercised licensing, regulatory, and disciplinary functions in connection with the operation of certain sports in California, including boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, and Ultimate Fight Championship events. Without the extension provided for in SB309, the CSAC would become inoperative on January 1, 2014.
Combine this with the indictment stating that Yee & Jackson were “Extorting individuals related to the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and the Mixed Martial Arts industry regarding retaining the existence of the CSAC and its ability to regulate certain sports in California.”
Connect the dots.
Andy Foster is someone the UFC has always had a very high opinion of. When the Nevada State Athletic Commission job opened up after Keith Kizer’s resignation, Andy Foster was viewed by many in the industry as UFC’s preferred choice to get the job. Having Andy in position to control the Athletic Commission would certainly be in UFC’s best business interests.
The only MMA player who does any sort of political lobbying and dishing out of cash is the Fertitta clan, under their own name or Station Casinos or Zuffa or UFC. They spread the wealth around quite handsomely and do so because of their gaming interests with the tribal casinos in California. Additionally, they are supposedly connected with the Teamsters. The political lobbying ground game in combat sports is a one party show and that party is Station Casinos. None of the other major fight promoters contribute like the Fertittas do.
Put two and two together. The UFC already donates cash to California politicians. If we are to believe the indictment, Leland Yee was supposedly soliciting money to go through his fundraiser Keith Jackson… who allegedly would turn around and donate it under his Keith Jackson Consulting firm to Yee. And in the process, more and more promoters & individuals who wanted Yee to back the bill to keep CSAC from being sunsetted would flow money his way. That’s if you believe the allegations in the indictment.
Naturally, after reading the indictment, we decided to follow the money. Unfortunately, none of the contributions made to Keith Jackson Consulting are public record.
However, contributions to Leland Yee’s Secretary of State campaign are public record. Three possible “promoters” are listed as contributing money to Yee’s campaign: Morongo, Pechanga, and… Station Casinos. The tribal casinos are, in essence, promoters under the Ali Act for boxing events.
The timeline of the indictment notes that SB309 wasn’t passed until September of 2013, some six months after Yee & Jackson allegedly solicited money from Individuals A & B to vote to keep CSAC alive. In September of 2013, Zuffa donated $1,500 to Ted Lieu. Lieu was the author of SB309 bill to keep CSAC alive.
The federal indictment claims that Yee & Jackson were soliciting through the end of the year. Here’s the Station Casinos donation to Yee’s campaign from December 2013:
The next day, Station Casinos made a political donation to Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Bonilla’s AB1186 bill on kid’s pankration is linked to Ted Lieu’s SB309 athletic commission bill.
Exit question: If Yee & Jackson hadn’t been indicted by the Feds, how much control would those two & their backers have right now over the promoters, officials, and inspectors regulating events under the CSAC banner if the allegations of extortion turned out to be true?