Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s re-election campaign can’t approach donors who already contributed the maximum amount permitted by law in order to replace roughly $4.5 million that was siphoned from its accounts in an embezzlement scheme — at least for the time being.
The Federal Election Commission today failed to approve either of two draft proposals that it had circulated on the matter. Commissioners asked their general counsel to come up with a new draft that covers the areas of consensus between the two groups.
Lawyers for the Feinstein for Senate campaign had argued before the commission last month that barring the California Democrat’s constituents from writing new checks would trample on their rights because their original contributions were not used for their intended purposes.
“Donors have a constitutional right to associate with and support a candidate of their choice. ... That right has [currently] been extinguished by a criminal act of the treasurer,” attorney Marc Elias of Perkins Coie told the commissioners during an April meeting.
During a meeting today, two commissioners voted to approve a draft opinion that would have allowed Feinstein’s campaign to resolicit funds from maxed-out donors so long as the original checks never made it to the campaign’s account. Three others voted to approve a version that would only allow the campaign to resolicit if the funds were never deposited in any account and remained in control of the donor. One commissioner did not vote on either draft.
Feinstein is one of at least 50 victims who lost money to Kinde S. Durkee, a once-prominent campaign treasurer to California Democrats who pleaded guilty late last month to embezzling at least $7 million from her customers.
Though victims of the decadelong scheme include dozens of nonprofits, local Democratic groups and Reps. Laura Richardson, Susan Davis, Loretta Sanchez and Linda Sánchez, Feinstein’s re-election campaign was likely among the hardest hit, according to campaign finance filings. She recently loaned her campaign $5 million to replenish the missing money.