Sen. Berryhill will not challenge FPPC fine

jmiller@sacbee.comJuly 8, 2014 

State Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, in the Senate chambers in March 2013.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

California state Sen. Tom Berryhill will not seek to overturn a $40,000 money-laundering penalty imposed on him, his brother and a pair of county GOP committees.

Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, had until late last month to file a lawsuit in Superior Court challenging the Fair Political Practices Commission’s April approval of an administrative law judge’s proposed decision that Berryhill committed “serious and deliberate” violations of campaign-finance rules.

Charles Bell, Berryhill’s attorney, said the lawmaker, brother Bill Berryhill and the Republican central committees in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties decided to pay the fine but still maintain they did nothing wrong.

“They believe they did not violate the law,” Bell said. “They just made a business decision to move on.”

Berryhill created a legal defense committee last year. Through mid-May, the committee reported paying $52,000 to Bell’s firm.

Commission investigators alleged that Berryhill skirted contribution limits by moving campaign donations through the Republican committees to help his brother’s Assembly campaign in the days before the November 2008 election. Enforcement staff began the investigation in 2009 and brought the case in 2012. Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Lew oversaw several days of testimony in the fall and issued his proposed ruling in January.

“From the FPPC's standpoint, the administrative law judge found them guilty, issued the recommendations, and a unanimous bipartisan commission upheld the findings,” spokesman Jay Wierenga said. “We feel that speaks volumes about what the final outcome came to be.”

The Berryhills and party officials denied any collusion. With Democrats riding an Obama wave that year, GOP leaders viewed Bill Berryhill’s campaign in the then-26th Assembly District as increasingly in jeopardy and independently directed money there, they said.

Bill Berryhill served in the Assembly from 2008 through 2012. Tom Berryhill is running for re-election this fall in the redrawn 8th Senate District, which extends from Rancho Cordova to Death Valley.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.

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