[UPDATED with Feinstein Fooked!] Kinde Durkee, Democratic Treasurer Accused of Fraud

UPDATE, SEPT. 13, 11:05 A.M.: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest Democrat claiming to have been hornswoggled by campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee.

Feinstein first revealed her accounts had been totally cleaned out, but her spokesman later corrected that to say the amount of missing funds is currently unknown.

So, for those playing the home version of the Kinde Durkee Rip-Off Game . . .

. . . she is alleged to have so far victimized: Feinstein, U.S. Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Susan Davis (D-San Diego), state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) and Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana).

Solorio currently leads the pack with $677,000 in disappeared campaign cash.

Durkee's federal mail fraud complaint accuses her of moving campaign money from Solorio's account to the accounts of Davis, Sanchez and Beth Krom, the Democratic Irvine city councilwoman whose losing campaign to unseat Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach) in November 2010 was mired in debt.

The Durkee and Associates founder, who began her campaign treasurer career in the early 1970s, supposedly admitted to the FBI that she has for years misappropriated her clients' money, filed false reports to cover up the thefts and spent the booty on her Burbank company's payroll, her credit card bills, her mother's assisted living facility and other personal expenses.

UPDATE, SEPT. 9, 4:01 P.M.: The campaign accounts of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) allegedly got taken for $667,000 by his (and just about every other local Democrat's) treasurer, Kinde Durkee. State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) has also said he was a victim of theft by the founder of Burbank-based Durkee and Associates.

Now, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) is telling supporters that Durkee swiped nearly all her campaign cash.

Politico's Ben Smith shares this "plaintive email" Sanchez reportedly sent to her list:

As you may have heard, my campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, was arrested earlier this week on charges of stealing more than $600,000 from one of her Orange County based clients.

Unfortunately, upon reviewing my campaign account, I too am a victim. Nearly all of the funds my team and I worked hard to raise this year have been wiped out.

This is a disheartening betrayal by a trusted associate. The records Durkee & Associates sent to me on a weekly basis accurately reflected our internal records -- including the amount we raised, the incoming and outgoing funds from our accounts, and our cash on hand. In reality, our accounts have but a few thousand dollars.

But I am moving forward. Fighting for each and every one of you is and will always be my top priority. I am confident that through the help of friends, colleagues, and you, we will rebuild and be stronger than ever....

My accounts have but a few thousand dollars . . . Loretta, you're looking at the glass half-empty. If you were a journalist, you would be suffering no such burden.

ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 6, 10:18 A.M.: A prominent Democratic campaign treasurer who has been arrested by the FBI on suspicion of mail fraud handled the election finances of Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, City Council members Beth Krom and Larry Agran and various measures pushed by the council's Democratic majority.

Kinde Durkee of Burbank-based Durkee and Associates did not work exclusively in Irvine, having also served as treasurer for other local, state and federal candidates, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) and former OC lawmaker Tom Umberg.

Durkee, who has been in the campaign treasurer business since 1972, according to her website, also oversaw the political-action committees (PACs) of the Democratic Party of Orange County and the Democratic Foundation of Orange County.

Durkee was campaign treasurer of choice for Irvine's Democratic majority.
Durkee was campaign treasurer of choice for Irvine's Democratic majority.

But Durkee's role in Irvine politics is curious because of the slimy (but apparently legal) way the so-called "Agran machine" has financed elections over the years. After pushing for the passage of stringent local campaign finance laws that limit direct contributions, the Democratic majority has created slush funds with state and local measures on city ballots that are used to print the "Hometown Voter Guide" ballot recommendation mailers that include the Democratic candidates.

Because those contributions do not go directly to the candidates, those campaigns do not have report the source or count them among donations restricted under the city law.

A check of Irvine City Clerk records shows how intertwined Durkee has been in city politics. She was treasurer for: Agran's City Council bids in 1998, 2004, 2008, 2010, and for mayor in 2000 and 2002; Kang's 2010 mayoral race; and Krom's council bids in 2002 and 2008 and mayoral runs in 2004 and 2006. Durkee was also treasurer for the Irvine City Employees Association PAC and the "victory funds" for Measures R and S, which dealt with public support for the Orange County Great Park, in 2010.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento announced Saturday that Durkee had been arrested for her role as treasurer in an unspecified campaign.

However, Correa told the Orange County Register on Saturday afternoon that he was called by the FBI late Friday night and told that Durkee had been arrested and that he is a likely victim along with "many, many other victims." Correa told the daily he believes he has lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in campaign funds allegedly taken by his campaign treasurer since 1995.


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