Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Update on the "Bernie Madoff of Campaign Treasurers"

Somewhat lost in the flurry of legislative activity last week was the breaking of what may turn into a major political scandal: the FBI's arrest of Kinde Durkee, a prominent Democratic Party campaign treasurer, on charges of embezzling funds from a number of California politicians. Now that we don't have tax plans or unionized nannies to talk about, more details in the Durkee case are starting to emerge. And they're not good for the state's Democratic Party.

The scandal is bad news for Democrats on two fronts. The first is practical: many of those running for office next year might be short hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash. We already know some of the effects in Orange County: U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez and state lawmakers Jose Solorio and Lou Correa together had over a million dollars stolen by Durkee. Now we're learning that San Diego Rep. Susan Davis is missing $250,000 from her campaign fund, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is reporting that her $5 million re-election fund may be completely wiped out. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party also reports that $200,000 is missing. Hence, the practical problem: Durkee's crimes could create a serious obstacle for Democrats' hopes of taking two-thirds majorities in the Legislature, if their candidates are unable to properly contest elections. The second problem is one of appearances: what does it say about the judgment of California's Democrats, if they placed so much trust in someone with an extensive history of ethics complaints? In an email yesterday, Davis referred to Durkee as "the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers"; yet the red flags were abundant before this news broke. Back in 2007, Durkee's Burbank firm was linked to a fraudulent "Californians for Obama" campaign that fleeced hundreds of donors, and she's been the target of several warnings and four enforcement actions by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. Awful judgment on this scale is the sort of thing that can derail a campaign.

4 comments:

  1. A number of people about the web have suggested that Durkee may have been running a money laundering operation, either (a) "cleaning" illegal campaign contributions or (b) facilitating embezzlement of campaign funds.

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  2. Interesting. After reading about the whole "Californians for Obama" thing, it floors me that anyone continued to trust Durkee after 2007. She seemed pretty clearly implicated, and it was a blatant fraud.

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  3. You don't trust her, unless she's doing something illegal for you.

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  4. I would guess it's a mix; that there are people like Solorio who trusted her and feel genuinely wronged, and insiders with some very dirty secrets.

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