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The Fair Political Practices Commission has accused GOP state legislators Bill and Tom Berryhill of violating state campaign laws by laundering $40,000 to help Bill Berryhill's 2008 Assembly bid.

California Watch's Lance Williams reports:

The commission said that less than a week before the election, Tom Berryhill gave his brother's campaign $40,000 - more than 11 times the $3,600 donation limit set by state law - to pay for television advertising.

To mask the true source of the funds, the commission contended that Tom Berryhill steered the money through Republican central committees in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, which by law could accept as much as $30,200 per donor.

As soon as they got the money, the county committees funneled it to Bill Berryhill's campaign, according to the commission. Bill Berryhill then filed reports falsely claiming that the money came from the county committees and not his brother, the commission said.

The lawyer for Tom Berryhill, who now serves in the state Senate, and the GOP committees allegedly involved in the scheme told California Watch that his clients didn't break the law. He said the committees independently decided to give the money to Bill Berryhill's campaign. A hearing on the charges is set for June.

Bill Berryhill is now locked in a too-close-to-call race with Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani for a Stockton-based Senate seat. He currently leads by about 1,500 votes, according to results posted by the Secretary of State.

Click here to read the full California Watch report.



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