Congressman Guinta gets a $15,000 fine while Congressman Bera’s father faces 30 months in prison.
We already know that Congressman Frank Guinta is, as the Union Leader put it, “a damned liar,” for lying about violating campaign finance laws.
For years Guinta denied any wrongdoing in the $355,000 loan he gave to his campaign. Last year, we found out that Guinta had violated campaign finance regulations and that Guinta and the FEC had settled the dispute. Guinta was forced to pay the money back and pay a minuscule fine.
Many people were outraged that the FEC did not come down harder on Guinta for his FEC violations, though his credibility is now completely shot.
The FEC rules are pretty clear but penalties vary.
For example, Babual Bera, father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) funneled $225,000 to Rep Bera’s campaign in a flagrant violation of FEC campaign donations limits.
According to the LA Times, Babual Bera convinced others to donate to his son’s campaign and then repaid them for their maximum legal contribution.
“Prosecutors said there were more than 130 instances of improper campaign contributions reported from approximately 90 people. Bera’s father repaid at least portions of those donations, and investigators said that it’s possible even more money was donated illegally to the congressman’s early campaigns.”
Babual Bera is set to be sentenced in August and the federal prosecutors are recommending 30 months in jail.
This is where penalties vary. Bera is facing the possibility of 30 months in federal prison while Congressman Guinta got off for his illegal $355,000 violation with a $15,000 fine.
The cases are not exactly the same, Bera’s father acted alone and repaid donors with his own money, while Guinta got a massive loan from this parents and donated the money directly to his own campaign, but there is a vast difference in penalties.
Guinta got off with a slap on the wrist years after his violation won him a seat in Congress. Bera’s father is facing years behind bars.
Why did Guinta not face jail time for his offenses? Why did Bera not get off with a minor fine?
Unfortunately the Constitution does not allow the FEC to bar those who violate finance laws from public office. If you cheat you should not be allowed to represent the people ever again. Short of that, stiffer penalties than the $15,000 Guinta received is necessary to stop corrupt politicians from trying to cheat the system.