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Agua agrees to abide by campaign laws

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians agreed on Friday to abide by California's campaign finance disclosure laws, settling a years-long legal tussle with Fair Political Practices Commission.

The Southern California tribe agreed not to appeal a December ruling by the California Supreme Court, which said that the tribe's political donations - despite claims of tribal sovereignty - are subject to state regulations and disclosure rules.

The 4-3 decision was the result of "good faith" dispute, not subject to any fine or penalty.

"It is a very important decision not only for (upholding) the Political Reform Act but for the people of California," says FPPC spokesman Roman Porter. "It says that everybody who engages in politics in the state of California has to abide by the provision of the Political Reform Act."

In the settlement, the tribe has agreed to pay the state's general fund $200,000, said Porter, though the money is not defined as a fine.

Instead, it is defined as a payment made following a "good faith" dispute. In 2002, the state sued the tribe for $7.5 million for failing to report some political contributions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the tribe was hesitant to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where any decision would set a national precedent for the sovereignty of tribal governments.

"There are many tribal organizations and tribes that are going to be pleased that we took the action that we took because this would have had a blanket effect across the country," Agua Caliente tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich told the paper. "So, was this the right case to try at the time? Probably not."

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