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Campaign agency considers fines for brothers Tom, Bill Berryhill
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s political watchdog agency began considering Thursday whether to fine two brothers for transferring money between their campaigns while both were running for state Assembly in 2008.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission took the case under review after hearing brief arguments.

Commissioners now have until May 14 to consider whether to accept an administrative law judge’s recommendation that Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte and his brother, former Assemblyman Bill Berryhill of Ceres, be fined for transferring $40,000 between their legislative campaigns.

The brothers, both Republicans, deny violating campaign finance rules.

The mid-May deadline is because the commission has a 100-day window to act on the judge’s recommendations, commission spokesman Jay Wierenga said.

“The commission can do what they want to do at this point,” he said.

Commissioners can accept, reject or modify the recommendation, or take no action. If the commission takes no action, he said the judge’s recommendations will take effect automatically.

Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Lew recommended a fine of up to $35,000 for Tom Berryhill and his campaign committee and up to $10,000 for Bill Berryhill and his committee. He also recommended that the Republican central committees in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties should each be fined up to $10,000 for aiding the transfers.

At the time, Tom Berryhill was seeking re-election to the 25th Assembly District, while Bill Berryhill needed money for his ultimately successful bid to represent the 26th Assembly District. Bill Berryhill subsequently lost a bid to join his brother in the Senate.

The brothers say there was no campaign violation because there was no guarantee that Tom Berryhill’s money would go from the Republican central committees to Bill Berryhill. However, the administrative law judge called the violations “serious and deliberate” in recommendations made public last month.