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California: supreme courts hears argument on applicability of campaign finance law to Indian tribes

AP reports: Tribal sovereignty trumps the state's ability to file campaign-finance enforcement lawsuits, an attorney representing a Palm Springs Indian tribe argued Wednesday in front of the California Supreme Court.

The case pitting the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state panel that oversees campaign financing and spending, questions whether federally recognized tribes should be immune from most state intervention, including lawsuits to enforce state laws.

The state's highest court must consider whether California tribes, which have become major political donors due to a windfall of casino revenues, should be bound by campaign-finance disclosure rules. The state's 100-plus tribes have contributed more than $200 million to campaigns and initiatives in the past decade.

Attorney James Martin, who represents the Agua Caliente tribe, argued that tribes can't be sued in court because they are sovereign nations. Only Congress or the tribes themselves can waive sovereign immunity to allow lawsuits. -- Calif justices hear arguments on tribal campaign-finance rules

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