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Hearing begins on campaign violation case against Sen. Berryhill

SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) didn’t want to see his brother, Bill, lose an Assembly race in 2008 so he arranged to have $40,000 in contributions laundered through two county central committees, a state attorney alleged Tuesday in a hearing on political money laundering charges.

Sen. Berryhill had maxed out on how much he could directly give his brother’s Assembly campaign, said Neal Bucknell, senior counsel for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, in his opening argument at the administrative hearing.

The senator provided $20,000 each to the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee and the San Joaquin County Republican Central Committee, which provided a like amount to Bill Berryhill’s campaign, Bucknell told Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Lew.

“Tom Berryhill needed to get money to his brother very badly and he decided to send it to him through the central committees,” Bucknell alleged. “It’s a straight-up money laundering case.”

Charles H. Bell, an attorney for the senator, said the emails and phone calls in records submitted by the state do not show that the money Berryhill gave to the central committees was “earmarked” for his brother.

“The evidence does not show that there was any condition placed on the use of the contributions from Tom Berryhill to the two committees,” Bell said in his opening statement.

The FPPC has alleged 16 violations of campaign finance laws punishable by fines of up to $80,000. While many candidates agree to the administrative punishment, Berryhill decided to fight it, demanding a hearing.

The first testimony in the case came in a videotaped deposition from Carlton Fogliani, a former campaign consultant for Bill Berryhill. He told FPPC investigators originally that he “put the word out to Tom that we needed money” so he could run television ads in the race and that the senator said he would see what he could do.

An email presented as evidence, from the senator to Fogliani, later said “Think I can get money earlier.” A day later the senator made his contribution to the central committees.

Attorneys in the case told Lew the hearing could take up to nine days to complete.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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