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Lawyers for state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, say in a new filing that an administrative law judge got it wrong when he concluded that the lawmaker illegally coordinated with county Republican committees in steering campaign dollars to his brother's Assembly campaign in 2008.

In his Jan. 31 proposed decision, made public Wednesday, Judge Jonathan Lew called the money-laundering violations "serious and deliberate." The senator, Lew wrote, contributed $40,000 to GOP central committees in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties "with the clear understanding that the monies would be contributed to Bill Berryhill."

Tom Berryhill, Bill Berryhill, and Republican central committees in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties face a combined $40,000 in fines. The California Fair Political Practices Commission is scheduled to consider Lew's decision April 17.

But Wednesday's opposition brief said Lew misinterprets the law as well as contradicts the legal standard applied in last year's case by the Fair Political Practices Commission challenging an Arizona nonprofit organization's donations to California campaigns before the November 2012 election.

Last October, the FPPC approved a $1 million fine as part of a settlement with several political groups that had given about $15 million to block a tax increase and weaken union influence in California in 2012 without properly reporting the source of the money. Among the groups were the Center to Protect Patient Rights, Americans for Responsible LeadershipAmericans for Job Security.

The latter group was not included in the fine because of insufficient proof that it had earmarked its contributions to ARL, according to Wednesday's filing. That contradicts the FPPC's standard in the Berryhill case, it contends.

"There is substantial doubt about why the Enforcement Division would contend in settling the ARL case that 'hope' and 'no specific direction' or 'no specific purpose' were insufficient to conclude that AJS had 'earmarked" its contributions to CPPR, and that AJS had acted in accordance with current law, whereas when Tom Berryhill acknowledged that he 'hoped,' but did not specifically direct or specify a purpose for his contributions of $40,000 to two central committees, that earmarking had occurred," it reads.

PHOTO: Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, is shown during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.


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