California Common Cause files complaint about tribal donations

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Common Cause filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging campaign finance law violations from donations from Indian tribes.

More than 300 such violations were listed in the complaint, filed June 5, totaling about $395,000 in unreported donations from the gambling industry - the majority from tribal gaming interests.

California campaign laws stipulate that anyone who donates $10,000 or more must file major donor reports and candidates must report donations of $100 or more. California Common Cause is alleging that many of these donations were not properly reported.

Among major political figures singled out was Gov. Gray Davis. The report claims he received $113,000 in undisclosed donations from the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. A story in the Los Angeles Times reported the governor's office vehemently denies the charge and calls the report a "political stunt."

Jim Knox, executive director of California Common Cause, says his group came up with the figures when it looked at statements from donors and they didn't match figures from donations received lists.

"We just did the math," Knox says.

Paul Slama, developments coordinator for the Cabazon, said Common Cause hasn't done its homework. He said he believes it confused the issue. He claims the majority of the money was donated to the Governor's Inaugural Committee, a non-profit organization. Donations to non-profit organizations do not need to be reported.

Slama also claims that Common Cause has been sloppy in its compilation of the statistics. "Several of these donations were much smaller and given separately. What Common Cause has done is lumped all of these donations together and act like it's a smoking gun. The state hasn't even issued a report yet that lists all the donations in their proper context."

He calls the report "a political hit," saying the state gives identification numbers to all political donations to keep track of where the money goes. "Common Cause can look into it. They can follow all the money and find out that everything should be in order."

Asked about donations to non-profit entities, Knox reasserts that his group found discrepancies. "The Fair Political Practices Commission will sort everything out. We're just reporting what we've found."

Waltona Manion, public relations counsel for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians - also cited in the report - said she doesn't think the report is accurate but says the Morongos will gladly check into any financial discrepancies.