In this 2010 photo, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) addresses supporters at a campaign gathering in Carmichael, Calif. Bera’s father has pleaded guility to illegal campaign contributions in 2009 and 2011. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Babual Bera, father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), pleaded guilty on Tuesday to channeling more than a quarter of a million dollars to his son’s 2010 and 2012 political campaigns.
His plea was entered during a brief appearance in Sacramento federal court, and will face sentencing in August. Federal prosecutors are recommending up to 30 months in prison for the offense. In court documents, prosecutors said the 83-year-old retired engineer and his wife asked “relatives, friends and acquaintances to make the maximum allowable federal campaign contributions” to campaigns in 2009 and 2011.
“Congressman Bera and his campaign staff have been fully cooperative in this investigation,” acting U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “To date, there is no indication from what we’ve learned in the investigation that either the congressman or his campaign staff knew of, or participated in, the reimbursements of contributions.”
The congressman reiterated the same points, saying he was completely unaware of any illicit activities by his father until the U.S. Attorney’s Office had approached him.
“Since I learned from authorities about this investigation, my team and I have cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Neither I, nor anyone involved with my campaign, was aware of my father’s activities until we learned about them from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and, on the advice of my attorney, I have not discussed this matter or anything else regarding my campaigns with my father.
“Once this investigation was made public, I immediately took steps to give the full amount of improper donations to the United States Treasury and the taxpayers.
“My father taught me the value of hard work and, if not for him, I would not be a doctor. But he also taught me that we are all accountable for our own actions, and he has accepted responsibility for what he did.”
However, prosecutors said there were more than 130 instances of improper campaign contributions from approximately 90 people. Babual repaid portions of those donations, and investigators said that it’s within the realm of reality that even more money was donated illegally to Ami’s early campaigns — he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010, before narrowly defeating Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012.
Babual plead Tuesday to funneling $225,326 in 2009 and another $43,000 in 2011. In both election cycles, his parents had already made their own contributions of $2,400 and $2,500, the maximum allowed by law.
The investigation began after an anonymous tip to the FBI in the fall of 2014, saying that donations had been made and later repaid by different people in various parts of the country. The elder Bera was interviewed by FBI agents last October about the allegations.
In a written statement, Rep. Bera said he was “incredibly saddened and disappointed in learning what my dad did.”
“While I deeply love my father, it’s clear that he has made a grave mistake that will have real consequences for him,” Bera said in the statement.
The two-term congressman currently finds himself in the heat of a re-election battle against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican. Additionally, he has found himself in a tough spot with some of his fellow Democrats and labor unions as of late for his support of President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
When asked by the judge whether he was guilty of the offenses, the elder Bera replied simply: “I have, in fact, done the crime.”