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Durkee Scandal Keeps Growing  

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By Ann K. Williams
The Lookout

September 14, 2011 -- Accusations of embezzlement against political accountant Kinde Durkee have been mounting since her arrest for fraud by the Federal Bureau of the Investigation earlier this month.

Yesterday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told the press that her campaign treasury was “wiped out” by Durkee to the tune of millions of dollars. It will take time to know exactly how much, Feinstein said, because Durkee controlled access to her accounts.

“I was wiped out too, we don't know how much,” Feinstein told Politico. “I trusted her implicitly. It's very painful.”

Durkee has managed the campaign warchests of some of the most well-known politicians in California, as well as some campaigns in Santa Monica.

Feinstein joins a growing list of those who say they've been victimized by Durkee.

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party says they lost $200,000, Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego) alleges losses of more than $250,000 and Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) says Durkee emptied her campaign fund.

The FBI complaint against Durkee alleges that she embezzled more than $677,000 from the Solario for Assembly 2010 campaign and spent the money covering bounced employee payroll checks, paying for her mother's care at an assisted living facility, and paying Costco and Virgin Air bills.

“As this scandal emerges, she may well become known as the Bernie Madoff of campaign finance treasurers,” said Davis in an email to her supporters, asking them to help rebuild her treasury.

Durkee was not a stranger to scrutiny from government agencies, according to press reports.

In the last ten years, she's run up Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fines totalling $185,860, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reports that it was the FPPC's investigation of state Board of Equalization Jerome Horton's campaign funds that led the FBI to launch its own examination of Durkee's firm, Durkee and Associates.

Last October, Durkee and Associates was named in a complaint to the FPPC by Santa Monica Coalition for a Liveable City.

The Coalition said that Durkee concealed the sources of funding for mailers on behalf of a group called Santa Monicans for Quality Government (SMQG), mailers which many said were misleading.

Only at the tail end of the campaign did SMQG file financial disclosure information to the City Clerk, revealing that the mailers were bankrolled by development interests.

While City Councilmember Kevin McKeown – one of the candidates targeted by the mailers – won his seat, the other target of the SMQG campaign, Ted Winterer, lost by a slim margin.

Durkee's company played a similar role in the 2006 campaign against former Interim President of Santa Monica College Tom Donner, who ran for College Board of Trustees and lost.

While Durkee managed Santa Monica City Councilmember Terry O'Day's treasury in 2010, he has not answered emails from The Lookout asking whether he's missing any money.

“We saw in our last Santa Monica election the deliberate combination of misleading political fliers and deferred financial reporting used to deny residents an accurately informed vote,” McKeown told The Lookout last week.

“The Durkee arrest is a reminder that we still have much to do to guarantee a transparent democracy.”

Durkee is currently out on $200,000 bail. She is scheduled to appear in court in Sacramento on October 19.

The FBI press office would not comment on any additional charges it might bring against Durkee.

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