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California: state supreme court rules campaign finance laws cover Indian tribes

The San Francisco reports: California's Indian tribes, which have poured millions of dollars into political battles, lost an effort to be protected from campaign disclosure laws Thursday when the state Supreme Court ruled they can be sued for violations despite their status as sovereign nations.

The 4-3 ruling allows a state agency to pursue a lawsuit against a Southern California tribe for failing to promptly report $8.5 million in contributions to political committees and candidates from 1998 to 2002. The tribe could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has consistently curbed states' attempts to take tribes to court.

The ruling "fails to follow established federal law,'' said Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians. The tribe owns two casinos in Palm Springs.

Courts have granted tribes immunity from most types of lawsuits in state court, in recognition of their sovereignty and need for self-government. But the California justices said the tribes' status was outweighed in this case by the state's constitutional authority to maintain a "republican form of government'' free from corruption. -- Ruling on campaign disclosure Tribes can be sued for late gift reports

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