Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Will father’s legal trouble hurt Ami Bera’s reelection?

Babulal Bera, the father of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, leaves the federal courthouse in Sacramento on May 10, 2016.
Babulal Bera, the father of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, leaves the federal courthouse in Sacramento on May 10, 2016. rpench@sacbee.com

Is prison in the cards for Rep. Ami Bera’s 83-year-old father?

After admitting earlier this year to sidestepping campaign finance laws to assist his son’s 2010 and 2012 election efforts, Babulal Bera will be sentenced this morning at the federal courthouse in Sacramento for two felony counts of election fraud. Prosecutors are seeking a year in prison for the elder Bera, in addition to a $130,200 fine, but his attorneys have requested three years’ probation, arguing that he is not healthy enough to be taken into custody and his 82-year-old wife could not survive without him.

In the midst of a competitive reelection race against Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, Ami Bera has tried to distance himself from his father and the case. The congressman, a Democrat from Elk Grove, has said he knew nothing about his father’s solicitation of donations from family members, friends and acquaintances who were later reimbursed, and the investigation has yet to turn up any evidence that he did.

But his opponent is still trying to turn the controversy into a political weight for Ami Bera, who won his third term in 2014 by fewer than 1,500 votes. Jones, who has repeatedly suggested his rival knew about the illegal fundraising from the beginning and let his father take the fall, this week proposed a set of campaign finance changes to “root corruption out of politics and expose conflicts.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Republican businessman Doug Ose, who lost to Bera in 2014, was at the plea hearing in May.

SALT IN THE WOUND: It was created by an engineering accident 111 years ago; now it sits on the verge of environmental disaster. Through neglect and drought, the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, has become inhospitable to its local wildlife and a health hazard for nearby communities. And while the state appropriated money for restoration efforts six years ago, bureaucratic hurdles have delayed projects. So with her remaining months in the spotlight, retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is calling for some “urgent action” on the Salton Sea. She will be at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in Calipatria at 2 p.m. for a briefing and press conference with state and local officials.

WORTH REPEATING: “In addition to this being an inconvenience, switching our clocks twice a year, this is a health hazard.” - Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, presenting a resolution urging Congress to pass legislation allowing states to adopt Daylight Saving Time year-round

ON THE MARCH: Protests against police brutality and for greater law enforcement transparency continue fervently in cities across the country, including in Sacramento. Another will take place today at the Capitol, with a rally on the south lawn and march to the governor’s mansion starting at 9 a.m. Organized by community activists from the Bay Area, the event asks the Legislature to reverse the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights, a state law providing additional due process protections for police that critics argue make it impossible to investigate or remove officers for their conduct on the job.

BY THE NUMBERS: It’s been a week since appropriations committees in both houses approved, blocked or altered hundreds of bills on their respective suspense files. Legislative records, though, have only recently caught up to what actually happened amid the auctioneer-like pace of chairs Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. In the Assembly, the suspense file contained more than 140 bills. About a third passed without change, a quarter were held in committee and are likely dead for the year, and the rest passed with amendments – often with only the briefest of descriptions. In the Senate, the appropriations panel acted on more than 330 bills. A third passed with no changes, a little more than one-quarter were held, and the rest passed with changes. Most of the actual new language didn’t appear on the Legislature’s bill-search website until this week. And as of Wednesday afternoon, changes to several bills announced by Gonzalez last week still were not public, including those to SB 1190, the measure dealing with ex parte communications by members of the California Coastal Commission.

MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR: The Secretary of State’s office will hold its randomized alphabet drawing to determine the order of candidates’ names on the November ballot at 11 a.m. in its headquarters on 11th street. With television ads and mailers and get-out-the-vote efforts, this is probably not the foremost of any political consultants’ election worries. But who’s on top is not irrelevant – and could just turn a blowout race into a nailbiter.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Jay Obernotle, R-Big Bear Lake, who turns 46 today.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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