SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California's lieutenant governor paid a record $263,000 fine for violating campaign donation limits in his run against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), the state's political watchdog agency said Tuesday.
California's Fair Political Practices Commission charged in a civil lawsuit filed in January that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) and his supporters improperly moved $3.8 million between campaign committees during the recall election in an effort to skirt contribution limits.
Although agency officials have said Bustamante faced fines of as much as $9 million, the $263,000 settlement is still the largest ever paid in California by a candidate. The agreement was approved Monday by Judge Loren McMaster.
"It was never my intention to violate the law," Bustamante said. "Unfortunately, the FPPC's regulations weren't as clear as they could have been. We believed that we were using a process the FPPC had allowed in the past and that our actions were consistent with the law."
According to the complaint, Bustamante accepted at least 39 contributions — many of them from Indian gambling interests — in support of his gubernatorial campaign between August and September 2003.
The money was initially deposited into Bustamante's committee organized to support his re-election as lieutenant governor in 2002; then the money was transferred to his recall candidate committee and spent on recall-related expenses.
Investigators at the Fair Political Practices Commission (search) said the money was deposited into the lieutenant governor's re-election account to make it appear the contributions were not subject to contribution limits.
The maximum contribution from any donor to a candidate running in the recall election was $21,200. Investigators said there were 16 contributions, valued at $3.8 million, that exceeded the contribution limits.
"Given the purposeful nature of the conduct, we thought it was important that this needed to be the highest paid," said the agency's chief of enforcement Steven Russo.