Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hands In Pocket: CA Dems Betrayed By Embezzler

I kind of slept on this story when it broke in the local papers, but the Wall Street Journal has made a national story out of a Californian woman who has served as treasurer for dozens of California Democratic campaigns, and who (it turns out) was embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from her clients.

Kinde Durkee was arrested Sept. 2 and accused by federal authorities of stealing campaign funds and using the money to pay for an array of personal expenses, including mortgage payments, cosmetics and nursing-home care for her mother. Based in Burbank, Calif., the 58-year-old had long managed money for scores of Democratic campaigns.

According to the federal criminal complaint, Ms. Durkee "misappropriated money from her clients' bank accounts and filed false disclosure reports to hide the misappropriations." Ms. Durkee "admitted that she had been misappropriating her clients' money for years," according to court documents.

Her lawyer didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint against Ms. Durkee focused solely on her alleged misappropriation of more than $600,000 from the campaign accounts of state Assemblyman Jose Solorio's campaign accounts. But prosecutors said the case is set to widen as evidence surfaces that more politicians were alleged victims and millions of dollars in campaign donations may be missing.

The best part is that her current clients have no idea how much money they may or may not have in their campaign coffers. Some of them even claim to be locked out of their accounts! Hilarious!

What's not so funny: no one among her clients seems worried that they might have some exposure to campaign finance violations. But, Durkee was able to get away with her crimes by, at least in part, by commingling federal and state campaign donations, and then mixing up those accounts with her own as well as those of other clients. Don't candidates have some responsibility for where their campaign donations go? Didn't Tom DeLay get a prison sentence for what was essentially depositing the wrong funds into the wrong account? Durkee, for her part, had previously been flagged for major violations, but these never seemed to affect her career, or redound against her liberal clients.

While some California political figures expressed shock at the allegations against Ms. Durkee, there are growing indications that there were potentially serious problems in her operation for years.

"There definitely had been red flags that have gone off in the last few years," said Stephen Kaufman, a campaign attorney who worked for clients of Ms. Durkee's. Mr. Kaufman said he was working with a number of clients to find out the status of the bank accounts that Ms. Durkee had controlled.

Ms. Durkee was cited for financial reporting misdeeds 11 times by the state agency that oversees campaign finances, starting in 2002. The fines totaled $190,000.

Compared to other campaign treasurers, the number of citations stood at "an extreme level," said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state oversight agency. Ms. Durkee was "the subject of quite a few major violations."

One of the investigations found unusual fluctuations in the campaign accounts of a statewide regulatory board candidate. Investigators noticed similar irregularities in the accounts of other clients of Ms. Durkee, including one official for a federal office, prompting the state agency to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ms. Ravel said.

A "statewide regulatory candidate," huh? Names, please. Like I say. Why didn't these violations redound against her clients? If there were "unusual fluctuations" in campaign accounts, doesn't that deserve a little more scrutiny of the candidate?

Also, note that the guy who seems to be her biggest victim was State Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who lost $600,000 to his rogue treasurer. California's government is too big, and its legislators too powerful, when a mere state assemblyman can have a campaign account so large that it takes a while for him (or whomever) to realize it was $600K short.

Durkee was motivated, in part, by greed - she clearly wanted to live a larger lifestyle than that which a political bookkeeper could afford. But she was also paying for her mother's rest home bills. Looks like Utopia wasn't coming quickly enough for Durkee.

There's a lot of talk in the article from people like Diane Feinstein bemoaning the betrayal of trust. Personally I would never trust a liberal, but I certainly would never trust someone who looks like this:


Geeesh! My eyes! When conservatives talk about fighting Leviathan, they aren't kidding.


  1. Now, now, the dear woman was merely "redistributing the wealth." True, it was done without the consent of those who owned the wealth, but isn't it always?

    Also, it is obvious that the lady was conducting her very own stimulus plan for the economy. Now who can find fault with that?

  2. I can tell where she spent the money.