Federal regulators dismissed a complaint Thursday that accused "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" of playing favorites when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared as a guest on the show this month.

The Federal Communications Commission complaint, filed on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial challenger Phil Angelides, argued that the NBC show violated the equal time provision in federal law when the Republican governor appeared on the show Oct. 10, less than a month before the election.

Angelides also asked to appear, but was not scheduled.

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Federal rules require broadcast stations to give equal time to candidates who appear on the air. The rules do not apply to news programs, interview shows and documentaries in which the candidate is not the sole focus.

The agency concluded that Schwarzenegger's appearance was exempt.

"Nor do we find that the decision to invite Schwarzenegger on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' was motivated by partisan purposes," the agency said in a ruling by Robert L. Baker, assistant chief of the policy division's media bureau.

The governor's campaign had no comment.

Steven Maviglio, an Angelides campaign spokesman, accused the Bush administration of bending the law to side with the Republican governor.

"We are disappointed but not surprised that the Bush-controlled FCC has made a political decision over the use of our public airwaves," he said.

The equal-time question also arose during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, when Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy on Leno's show in a surprise announcement.

The "Tonight Show" then invited all 135 recall candidates to appear together. They were given 10 seconds to shout their ideas, all at the same time.