Capitol Alert

Ami Bera says dad’s prison time takes toll on family

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, see on Election Day last year, expressed concern about his imprisoned father.
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, see on Election Day last year, expressed concern about his imprisoned father. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Political and family turmoil that overshadowed Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and the hotly contested race to represent California’s 7th Congressional District continues to linger for the three-term congressman from Elk Grove.

Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, remains in federal prison in Southern California, where he is serving time after being convicted of election fraud in connection with his son’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012.

The elder Bera was convicted in August, during the run-up to November’s election, and sentenced to serve one year plus one day at Terminal Island federal prison outside Long Beach. Ami Bera, who narrowly defeated Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican, in the hotly contested race to represent suburban Sacramento, expressed grief and concern Thursday about the situation.

“As a son, it’s certainly not easy to watch my mom go through this – and my dad, at 84 years old,” Bera said in an wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board Thursday in which he weighed in on the future of the Democratic Party and controversial executive orders signed this week by President Donald Trump.

Bera said he has not visited his father in prison, though did not rule out a future visit before his sentence is up this November.

“I’ve talked to my dad on the phone. I certainly will continue to chat with him and potentially will see him,” Bera said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Bera said his father’s conviction has taken a significant toll on his family. His mother, Kanta Bera, now 83, is experiencing significant health problems, Bera said. She has had a brain aneurysm, two strokes, chronic kidney failure, osteoporosis and fractured bones, according to court records. Bera’s two brothers are in Southern California taking care of their mother, Bera said Thursday.

His father’s condition is also tenuous, Bera said. He has had two knee replacements and back surgery. “Mentally he’s fine. He doesn’t have dementia or anything, but ... he doesn’t get around that easily.”

Throughout the race, Bera denied knowing that his father had recruited family, friends and acquaintances to donate to his son’s campaign committee, then reimbursed them with his own money. Bera voiced disappointment with his father’s actions, though Jones’ campaign insisted during the race that the congressman was fully aware of the illegal fundraising scheme and allowed his father to take the blame. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it had no evidence Ami Bera was aware of his father’s illegal activities.

Bera said his father could get out of prison before his sentence is up in November, saying it could get reduced to 10 months.

“He’s getting through this ... we’re spending a lot of time making sure my mom gets through this. You do the best you can,” Bera said. “I think my dad’s biggest concern is my mom.”

Angela Hart: 916-321-1178, @ahartreports

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