10:26 PM PDT on Monday, April 11, 2011

By JIM MILLER
Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – California’s political ethics agency Monday approved a $60,000 fine against Inland potato producer Larry Minor, who confessed to illegally making tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of campaign contributions in the names of others.

The Fair Political Practices Commission also approved fines against former Inland lawmaker Ray Haynes and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians near San Jacinto.

In February, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a 14-count indictment of Minor, the owner of San Jacinto-based Agri-Empire, for $66,400 in illegal political donations.

The money went to the state Senate campaign of Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone in 2009 and the Assembly campaign of former Banning councilwoman Brenda Salas in 2006. Authorities said Minor gave the contributions in the names of employees and family members. Neither candidate knew the money’s true source, officials said.

On Feb. 16, Minor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, agreed to a $60,000 fine and promised to make no political contributions for three years.

The penalty, however, wasn’t final until the commission acted on it Monday. The panel approved the fine without comment.

In another case with Inland links, the commission approved a $14,000 fine against the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

The tribe is a former client of Sacramento lobbyist Frank Molina. In a separate case, the commission contends that Molina failed to file lobbying reports from January 2007 through December 2009.

In February, the commission rejected a proposed $30,000 fine against Molina as too low. There has not been any action since.

HAYNES CASE

Also Monday, the commission imposed a $7,000 fine on former lawmaker Ray Haynes, who represented much of Riverside County during a 14-year legislative career. The penalty ends a months-long fight that started with a routine audit of Haynes’ campaign committees.

The agency alleged that Haynes and his former campaign treasurer, Ray Horspool, failed to file semiannual reports in 2007 and 2008. The commission also alleged that Haynes improperly contributed $2,000 to a Northern California Assembly candidate in November 2006.

Haynes, who appeared at Monday’s hearing, acknowledged that he and Horspool deserve to be penalized. But a $10,000 fine recommended in December by an administrative law judge was far out of proportion to what Haynes described as “failing to file two pieces of paper.”

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