California Democrats Also Run Out of Their Own Money

An alleged embezzlement scandal has left major California politicians without funding and could pose a serious challenge to the Democratic Party’s total control of the Golden State. 

Kinde Durkee, campaign treasurer for many mostly Democratic California pols, was arrested at the beginning of this month on charges that she had swiped $677,000 from the account of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana). The Durkee case has much broader implications for California Democrats, however. Her clients – a complete list of whom has been collected by the Sacramento Bee – include Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Disneyland) and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. 

In addition to the money that Durkee seems to have re-appropriated (including most or all of Sanchez’ $379,000 “war chest”), the criminal investigation has led to a freeze on accounts for other politicians and organizations – including the L.A. County Democratic Party, which claims to be “the largest local Democratic Party entity in the United States.” The L.A. Times reports on the prospects for local Dems in the era of the perpetual campaign: 

"It couldn't happen at a worse time," said Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), who is expected to face Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) in a tough June primary in a newly drawn district. "I hope for my sake, and for all of my colleagues, that we're able to recoup the funds."

More than a dozen state and federal candidates in next year's election have had funds frozen. Scores of others who have not announced their plans or will not be on the 2012 ballot also employed Durkee, which complicates their efforts to promote themselves now by, for example, spending money to raise funds for future races.

Party officials may not be able to provide their usual help. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party lost $220,000 to Durkee and has $85,000 more stuck in related legal limbo. Durkee also handled the finances of numerous smaller Democratic clubs that provide campaign foot soldiers and are now scrambling to meet payroll.

Some things of note: 

The Durkee scam has gotten a bit of national attention, but it’s got long tentacles. DiFi is rich as Croesus, and she is already laying out cash to maintain her position. But the threat to incumbents is real. This is California, so the threats will come mostly from other Democrats. (Note that Richardson’s big worry is about fellow Democrat Janice Hahn.) But it could also open up some avenues for Republicans. Your best bet to follow that, and other California GOP trends, is Jon Fleischman’s The Flash Report. 


A bunch of Dems are now going to the Federal Election Commission and the state’s creepily named Fair Political Practices Commission to ask for waivers on fundraising and spending rules. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be a problem with pols going back to their donors for more money, but almost to a one we are talking about supporters of tighter campaign finance restrictions.

Sanchez and Feinstein both voted for McCain-Feingold. Now incumbents are seeking exemptions from the laws they voted onto the books, but their claim of special circumstances is not persuasive. Neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the California Franchise Tax Board would give you a break on your income taxes just because you were the victim of a thief. Why should officeholders get to break the rules just because they were robbed? 

Nor are these circumstances particularly special. Durkee did not sneak up and bonk the Democrats over the head. She has been a highly connected and powerful figure in California politics for more than a decade. Many Democrats still have praise for her work. You could call this a situation where the inclination of California politicians to associate with criminals has accidentally created the “level playing field” incumbents always claim to want. That’s all the more reason to treat the campaign finance woes of Cal Democrats as a jolly and welcome event. 

A few years back, former FEC Chairman Brad Smith talked to Reason about the insanity of campaign finance reform laws: 


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  • Mr. FIFY||

    Criminal activity: Not just for Team Red anymore.

  • The Hamilton||

    Hey, how was she supposed to know it's wrong to take one person's money for another's benefit? Her democrat clients do it all the time!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Drum roll!

  • Apogee||

    Apparently, crooks make good targets. I wonder what Durkee has to say at trial?

  • Pope Jimbo||

    I hope Durkee goes full Omar Little on them...

    Maurice 'Maury' Levy: You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You are stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from our city. You are a parasite who leeches off the culture of drugs...

    Omar Little: Just like you, man.

    Maurice 'Maury' Levy: Excuse me? What?
    Omar Little: I got the shotgun. You got the briefcase. It's all in the game though, right?
  • hey hey hey||

    Anybody see Ron Paul on Jon Stewart?

  • ||

    Just watched it, pretty good. With regards to the states towards the end of the interview, Paul probably needs to preempt the "uh, what about slavery?" thing even though Stewart didn't go there.

  • ||


  • PermaLurker||


  • Jeff||

    Actually, the IRS does provide tax breaks for the victims of theft.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Fox guarding the henhouse and so forth?

  • MSNBC||

    We didn't see nothin'.

  • Feministing||

    Men made her turn to a life of crime.

  • ||

    Another unconventionally attractive womyn done in by the patriarchy.

  • Dr. Kyohei Yamane||

    That's not a woman, that's Godzilla!!!

  • George V||

    I believe that should say lack of men made her turn to a life of crime.

  • MediaMatters.bOrg||

    Obviously, there's a story here... about how this story will be told by Fox News.

  • and...||

  • Almanian||

    lol - that's awesome!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    MM won't report on it unless it gets mentioned on, say, Fox News... but they'll only report HOW it was reported, not the crime itself.

  • ||

    So, basically MM is the Newsbusters of the left?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Good analogy, but MM is way more irritating.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But it could also open up some avenues for Republicans.

    So, what you're saying is that Faux News put her up to this. I knew it.


    No relation.

  • ||

    Is she related to the Durkee family that makes those yummy canned friend onion rings? A can of those on top can make any casserole worth eating! Yum!

  • ||

    This just makes me smile and smile and smile.

  • DemocraticUnderground.bOrg||


  • Apologetic California||

    Fundraiser, swindler, Dancing with a Star--Chaz Bono is our Renaissance tranny.

  • Elend||

    It is said that Republicans are Democrats who have been mugged, but what becomes of Democrat who have been robbed/taxed?

  • RM||

    I can't say I'm particularly disappointed.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    What's the difference between a mark and a voter?

  • Almanian||

    WIth all ha cash, I'd have hoped Ms. Durkee could be a new weed whacker for her heaircuts. Guess not.

    Also - Fuck California™

  • A Serious Man||

    Correction: Fuck California politicians (there is no meaningful distinction between Democrats and electable Republicans).

    I'm actually joining UC Irvine's chapter of Students for Liberty, so however small it may be, there is still some sanity in this state.

  • Xenocles||

    We may have a parliament of whores, but we also live in a republic. Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that the whores are us.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Yeah, well...we still don't kiss our johns on the mouth.

  • Mr. Saveloy||

    Quit stealing P.J.'s stuff!

  • cynical||

    No honor among something something.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    It is funny/apropos that she's swathed in green and black in that photo, amirite?

  • ||

    California democrats, is there anyone else in the world of American politics who deserve to get fucked over worse? I can't think of anyone else other than, maybe, Illinois democrats.

  • ||

    Woah! It's the short fat chick from Poltergeist!

  • Amakudari||

  • Diderot||

    Maybe she was just pulling a Danneskjöld.

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  • NotSure||

    They clearly have still a lot to learn, in many countries the ruling party has no problems providing endless funds for itself, usually from getting regular bribes from the business elite and a steady stream from the state coffers.

  • Xenocles||

    I don't know if you mentioned this when the story broke but the radio report I heard mentioned that the alleged thief stole the money in part to cover her mother's nursing home bills. Does anyone else find the prospect of looting a Democrat's war chest to cover assisted living deliciously ironic?

  • db||

    I think the ironic part is that once she's behind bars, California taxpayers are going to be on the hook for that food bill.

  • ||

    Yeah, but the reduced money spent per inmate on haircare will at least partially offset it.

  • db||

    Someone PLEASE buy that woman a cheeseburger!

  • ||

    Even i'm repulsed by that...that THING!

  • Mr. FIFY||

  • ||

    She has a look on her face like someone just got in front of her at the line for the all you can eat buffet.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    And, really, if that's a PR photo, I'd hate to see what her candid photos look like.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Let's everyone remember that it's important to focus on the content of her character and not how fat she is.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...or isn't. Graft adds ten pounds.

  • db||

    In this case that's really good advice.

  • ||

    OK. She is a corpulent thief who would pull you into the alley with a loaded gun at your face and say, "hand me that cheeseburger or you die."

  • John Pinette||

  • ||

    Google image search for kinde durkee photo

    Yup, there's just the one.

  • Amakudari||

    I laughed.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||


    Apparently, her Democratic clients have been getting warning letters from regulatory agencies for years concerning their finances.

    Did our elected representatives get an outside auditor to come in? Not a chance.

    So this begs the question, if they can't even protect their own money, why in the name of all that is good, would they give even the slightest shit about the taxpayer's money?

  • ||

    So this begs the question, if they can't even protect their own money, why in the name of all that is good, would they give even the slightest shit about the taxpayer's money?

    Is that a trick question?

  • ||

    I wonder which "progressive" will be the first to say, "...uh, this proves that we need publicly financed campaigns! In fact we should start, say, right now! In California!"

  • ||

    Holy fuck, you're right.

  • Rich||

    Kinde Durkee's PR team really needs to put a new picture into circulation.

    How about this?

  • ||

    Apparently the local Krispy Kreme vendor, at least, is always happy to see her.

  • ||

    "I'll take any motherfucker's money if he given it away!"

  • ||

    That's a pretty, I say, pretty handsome woman there.

  • GSL||

    Ah, California Democrats! Robbed, but with no solar panels to show for it this time.

    Interesting thing about this story: it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone, as Durkee had been the focus of ethics investigations for years, including the outright fraud of the "Californians for Obama" thing in 2007. How this could become a bigger scandal: did CA Dems continue to work with her because she was doing illegal things (e.g., laundering illegal campaign contributions)? Stay tuned.

  • ||

    Interesting hypothesis. How easy would it be for her to just "forget" certain details and grab some of that "extra" moneyz herself?

  • ||

    Interesting hypothesis. How easy would it be for her to just "forget" certain details and grab some of that "extra" moneyz herself?

  • Colin||

    Nice to see my crooked congresswoman on the list. You live by graft, you die by it.

    Honestly, though, they should go light on this Durkee woman. I mean, she does have to eat.

  • Amakudari||

    That money appears to have afforded her 638,679 McDoubles ($1.06 with Cali tax).

    God bless efficient markets.

  • Colin||

    A little off-topic, but I read somewhere yesterday that the California Democratic Party is listed as a creditor of Solyndra.

    Embezzlement could be the least of their worries.

  • NL_||

    Neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the California Franchise Tax Board would give you a break on your income taxes just because you were the victim of a thief.

    Nitpick alert: Technically the tax code allows a § 165 deduction for certain uncompensated losses (including theft of property). But this is subject to limitations and only applies to people who owe enough in taxes to use the itemized deductions. And the aggregate of losses has to exceed 10% of your AGI, so it has to be a pretty catastrophic loss.


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