SACRAMENTO -- A scheme by state Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) to launder $40,000 in campaign funds through two county GOP committees to his brother Bill’s 2008 Assembly campaign was a “serious and deliberate” violation of state regulations, an administrative law judge concluded in a report released Wednesday.
Judge Jonathan Lew recommended administrative fines of up to $40,000 against those accused of participating in the scheme, including maximum penalties totalling $35,000 against state Sen. Berryhill.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission will consider Lew’s recommendations at a meeting in April. Charles H. Bell Jr., an attorney for Sen. Berryhill, said he will appear at the commission meeting to oppose the proposed decision. "We argue that the proposed decision applied the wrong legal standard, and then using that wrong legal standard, misapplied the facts to find that the respondents had earmarked funds," Bell said.
The commission had accused Sen. Berryhill of providing $20,000 contributions to the Stanlislaus and San Joaquin county Republican central committees, which then passed on the money to the Assembly campaign of Bill Berryhill. State Sen. Berryhill had already directly given his brother’s campaign $3,600, which is the maximum contribution allowed from his campaign. Bill Berryhill won the 2008 election and served in the Assembly until 2012.
“Tom Berryhill’s two contributions to the county central committees were made with the clear understanding that the monies would be contributed to Bill Berryhill,” Lew wrote in his 44-page report after considering several days of testimony from those involved and numerous emails between the parties.
Lew cited emails between Sen. Berryhill and Carlton Fogliani, his brother’s campaign consultant, in which the latter said the campaign needed money and the lawmaker said he could get it.
“The violations were serious and deliberate,” Lew wrote. “By their nature the violations involved an intention to conceal, deceive or mislead.”
Lew sustained seven accusations against state Sen. Berryhill with fines of up to $5,000 each, four accusations against Bill Berryhill with smaller fines and two accusations each against the two county committees, which also could face fines.
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