Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in a tight re-election race in the Sacramento suburbs, said he’s a “little bit angry” at his father for campaign finance crimes, and he called his Republican challenger, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, sexist and misogynistic in a recent session with the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board.
Bera wouldn’t take a position on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, after taking heat from labor unions for voting to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the massive free trade deal with Asia.
Below are selected questions and answers from the session:
Q: On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, would you be just as happy if there were no vote during the lame duck (session of Congress between the election and the new year) or are you ready to vote on it?
A: The easiest thing for me to do would be to take a position against it. I’ve stayed neutral on it. Part of it is that we haven’t seen the implementing language that the president – if he were to send it to Congress – what that would be. We know he’s still talking to Republicans. We got some pretty strong enforcement standards in there, public health standards, things that some of the Republicans don’t like on tobacco and other areas. If he takes some of those out, then I might take a position against it and vice versa.
We have to trade with the rest of the world. We have to take these barriers down and open up these markets. And I’m very confident, not just for our region – exports are a big part of the Sacramento region and California – but if our companies can compete on a fair playing field we will do very well.
Q: Let’s talk about your dad a little bit. You’ve said you didn’t know anything about this. Tell us again how that could be? How could you not have known about this? (Bera’s father pleaded guilty to illegally funneling money to his son’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012 and was sentenced in August to a year and a day in prison.)
We have to trade with the rest of the world. We have to take these barriers down and open up these markets. Rep. Ami Bera
A: My dad obviously was excited that I was running for Congress. He was one of our biggest fundraisers, and we thought he was out there raising resources for us. So when I first learned about this, almost a year ago, I was shocked and, frankly, disappointed and, as I think, a little bit angry, that my dad would have done this.
Q: A little bit angry?
A: I understand his intent but the rules are pretty clear here. To his credit, he admitted what he did when confronted. The U.S. attorney was very clear consistently that we cooperated from day one. And it’s sad. It’s tragic. Had he actually just reached out to me or to the campaign there’s so many legal ways that he could have actually supported the campaign. He didn’t have to do this.
Q: Can you assure us that there are no other shoes to drop in this case or on other campaign finance matters?
A: Yes. Again, we’ve been fully transparent with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I did not know what my father was doing. We have not done anything illegal, and the U.S. attorney has been pretty clear that there wasn’t any evidence that we knew anything.
Q: What, Congressman, do you see as the main differences between you and Sheriff Jones?
A: I think Scott Jones’ leadership style and my leadership style are entirely different. . . . I read through the stuff that came out in the trial and a lot of it’s pretty shocking to me. (The sheriff’s department lost a lawsuit in May by four female deputies who said they had been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination and preferential treatment.)
I also watched pretty closely how the sheriff handled himself after the jury verdict came out. I ran a large department – I was the chief of primary services at the county and the chief medical officer – and you have a responsibility not just to the constituents and the people that you’re serving but to the people who work for you.
From what I can tell from looking at the trial, as well as everything else that he said afterward, there’s no evidence in my mind that he did anything other than protect the folks in his inner circle. That to me is unacceptable. . . . This says something about his character, says something about his leadership.
I think Scott Jones’ leadership style and my leadership style are entirely different. Rep. Ami Bera
Q: You mentioned character, so are you saying that it’s more than a matter of bad management and bad judgment? That he’s a misogynist, that he’s sexist? What are you saying?
A: From what I’ve seen, that would be my impression, that he has sexist behavior, that he’s had misogynist behavior. As a father of a daughter, this pattern of disrespect toward women bothers me. He has a responsibility to the people that work for him.