Kinde Durkee, a veteran campaign treasurer working for the Democratic Party in California, was arrested on Sept. 2, suspected by federal authorities of having embezzled $1 million. She allegedly ran a kind of campaign-fund Ponzi scheme — funneling money between accounts like a shell game — leading some to call her the "Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers." (Madoff, who would never be caught dead in a chartreuse smock, would probably bristle at the comparison.) Now several candidates' campaign funds have been completely wiped out, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein's.
"I was wiped out too, we don't know how much," said Feinstein, indicating the losses in campaign funds could run into hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. Feinstein, who is up for reelection next year, reported just over $5 million in the bank as of June 30, according to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
"She did my ‘92 campaign, my ‘94 campaign, my 2000 [campaign], my 2006 [campaign] … my gubernatorial campaign...I trusted her implicitly."
The 58-year-old Durkee, who lives in Burbank, handled campaign funds for scores of local, state and congressional candidates through her company, Durkee & Associates. The federal criminal complaint focuses on one specific case: that of the misappropriation of over $600,000 from the campaign account of state Assemblyman Jose Solorio.
Prosecutors say Durkee used the money to pay for everything from her house payments to cosmetics and a nursing home care for her mother. She's out on a $200,000 bond, under strict orders not to leave the area or involve herself in the affairs of her company. [Photo credit: Henry Vandermeir/California Democratic Council, via WSJ.com]