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Getty Heiress Settles Campaign Finance Suit

March 31, 2004|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — California's campaign watchdog group has agreed to settle its lawsuit against oil heiress Caroline Getty for $135,000, officials said Tuesday.

The Fair Political Practices Commission had accused Getty of secretly funneling $1 million in campaign donations to support three state ballot measures and asked a Sacramento court last October to fine her and her company up to $520,000.

The FPPC said Getty, a longtime environmental philanthropist and the granddaughter of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, was the source of two $500,000 donations made by her company, Wild Rose, to support Propositions 12 and 13 in 2000 and Proposition 40 in 2002.

Proposition 12 authorized the state to sell $2.1 billion in bonds to pay for a variety of environmental projects. Proposition 13 allowed the sale of $1.97 billion in state bonds to fund clean water projects. Proposition 40 authorized $2.6 billion in bonds for another round of environmental protection acquisitions.

Voters approved all three measures.

The FPPC said Getty's failure to disclose herself as the true source of the donations amounted to campaign money laundering and filed a complaint against her and Wild Rose in Sacramento County Superior Court.

In January Getty's motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied.

An attorney for Getty, Tom Hiltachk, blamed the dispute on "California's arcane political finance laws," saying the donations were made after Wild Rose got advice from legal experts.

"We believe that Ms. Getty's actions were perfectly legal," he said. "However, state law is unclear as to the reporting requirements applicable to single-member" limited liability companies like Wild Rose.

"We hope the FPPC or Legislature clarifies this confusing, complex and vague law so that other civil-minded and well-intentioned individuals won't be discouraged from supporting the environment or other worthy causes," Hiltachk said.

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