Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Theft Hits Races in California

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Dianne Feinstein was among the California Democrats whose campaigns were the target of alleged embezzlement.

Feinstein loaned her re-election campaign $5 million at the end of September in order to replenish its diminished funds. At that time, her campaign sued Durkee, her business associates and First California Bank. Carrick says documents obtained from the litigation could shed light on how Durkee took money from the campaign.

“We’re anxious to get into discovery and get ahold of the bank records and be able to track all of the transfers that were in and out of the Feinstein for Senate account,” Carrick said.

First California Bank has likewise frozen the assets of the Committee to Re-Elect Loretta Sanchez, which had $38,238 remaining in a Durkee-controlled account as of Sept. 21 and reported $596,850 in cash on hand at the end of September; the Committee to Re-Elect Linda Sanchez, which had about $4,500 remaining in
Durkee-controlled accounts and $143,846 remaining in its coffers; and the Susan Davis for Congress campaign, which confirmed that $6,918 in frozen assets is included in the $351,871 it reported having at the end of September.

Other campaigns acknowledged that cash-on-hand figures could be amended as they continue to investigate the matter.

“The Committee has been in the process of obtaining all available records in order to determine the extent of the embezzlement, but has not had sufficient time to perform a full reconciliation. Thus the Committee’s report presumably contains a cash on hand figure that is not accurate,” a note submitted by the Committee to Re-Elect Loretta Sanchez read.

Accounts associated with the re-election effort of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) also have about $17,775 in assets frozen in First California accounts. The Richardson for Congress campaign reported $116,706 in cash on hand and $460,011 in debts at the end of September. The campaign’s most recent FEC filing did not reflect any adjustments due to the Durkee embezzlement, but an attached statement noted that it had not yet finished its financial review.

“Prior to September 13, Richardson for Congress was a client of Kinde Durkee of Durkee & Associates. We will continue to review all FEC filings and bank statements and will amend prior reports if necessary,” the notation said.

Attorneys told Roll Call that they would not be surprised if other campaigns opt to file civil lawsuits against Durkee while the Justice Department conducts its probe.

“There’s a race-to-courthouse element to this. If you want priority, you want to file your claim as soon as you can,” said Joseph Birkenstock of the law firm Caplin & Drysdale.

According to court documents filed by First California, the nearly 400 accounts managed by Durkee at the bank had about $2.5 million on hand at the time the assets were frozen, which is not enough even to cover the losses of Feinstein alone.

Durkee was released on a $200,000 bond Sept. 9 and is next scheduled to appear in court in December.

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