In light of sexual abuse and harassment allegations against celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, today the fundraising campaign for Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) told Bold TV it would give the $6,800 received from Choudhury to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, an organization that provides legal and public relations assistance to those who have suffered sexual abuse in the workplace.
Choudhury, namesake of the popular yoga method, “Bikram,” is an embattled yoga entrepreneur who has been accused of sexual assault and fled the United States in the wake of ongoing legal battles. Over the years, Choudhury has donated tens of thousands of dollars to state and federal elected officials and candidates, mostly Democrats. Choudhury donated a total of $6,800 to Chu between 2009 and 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political donations listed by the Federal Election Commission.
Choudhury had been sued by six women who say he sexually assaulted them. In 2016, a court awarded $6.5 million in punitive damages and $924,000 in compensatory damages to an additional woman, Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury’s former legal advisor. Choudhury’s lawyers have denied the allegations, and the yoga instructor fled the country to avoid paying damages. In May 2017, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest and set bail at $8 million.
In the aftermath of the scandal, as Cory Stieg reports in Refinery29, most Bikram yoga studios have disbanded and renamed their companies, but some still practice his technique.
Choudhury’s case made headlines again this year after ESPN’s “30 for 30” podcast created a five-part series on the allegations. Julia Lowrie Henderson, a “30 for 30” reporter and producer, joined Bold TV today to discuss the series.
Watch our interview with ESPN’s Julia Lowrie Henderson here or on our Facebook page.
Choudhury has previously donated to both Democrats and Republicans including $1,000 to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), $25,900 to Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign in 2010 and hosted a 2012 fundraiser for former U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Berkley, a former Democratic congresswoman. The “VIP photo reception and cocktail hour” cost a reported $1,000 per person, according to Yoga Journal, but the total amount fundraised has not been disclosed. Choudhury himself donated twice to Berkley, once in 2011 for $1,000 and again in 2012 for $2500. Choudhury also donated $1,000 in 1994 and again in 2000 to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and $500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2004.
So far, Bold has discovered $52,200 in contributions by Choudhury to federal and state campaigns and committees.
In addition to the politicians mentioned above, Choudhury donated to the following candidates and officials:
Bold has not received a comment from any other elected official or political committee that Choudhury has donated to. We’ll keep you updated as the story evolves.
Photo credit: “30 for 30” & Congresswoman Judy Chu
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