Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Secretary of State candidate calls for ethics hearing on Senator Tom Berryhill

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A candidate for secretary of state who has been outspoken on campaign finance reform is calling on the Senate Ethics Committee to hold a hearing on a Northern California senator fined this week for money laundering in a 2008 election. 

Derek Cressman, a former vice president for Common Cause, wants the committee to consider whether Sen. Tom Berryhill, a Republican from Modesto, should be expelled from the Senate. Earlier this week, the Fair Political Practices Commission fined Berryhill $40,000 for laundering money in his brother's 2008 Assembly campaign. 

"Politicians who cheat on campaign finance rules in order to win elections don’t deserve to be in office in the first place," Cressman said. "If Lance Armstrong can’t keep his trophies after cheating to win them in cycling, why should a state senator get to keep his seat if he’s been cheating?” 

An attorney for Berryhill has said the senator may appeal the FPPC's decision in court. 

The fine is the fourth ethics-related black eye for the state Senate this year. Last month, the Senate voted to suspend members Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. Yee and Calderon are facing federal corruption charges (Yee is also accused of participating in a gun trafficking scheme), while Wright was convicted by a Los Angeles jury for lying about living outside his Senate district. 

Yee was actually a candidate for secretary of state until he was arrested. Because he ended his campaign so close to Election Day, his name will still appear on the ballot. 

Cressman is a "good government" advocate, having worked to implement the state's independent redistricting commission in addition to his work at Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog group. He's also the author of "The Recall’s Broken Promise — How Big Money Still Runs California Politics."

The other candidates running for secretary of state in the June 3 primary are Democrats Alex Padilla and Jeffrey Drobman, Republicans Pete Peterson and Roy Allmond, independent Dan Schnur and Green Party candidate David Curtis. 

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