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Kinde Durkee Fundraising Scandal: Laws May Prevent Candidates From Replacing Stolen Campaign Funds

Kinde Durkee Scandal

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 09/14/11 07:18 PM ET Updated: 11/14/11 05:12 AM ET

Clients of Kinde Durkee, the Democratic campaign treasurer who was arrested by the FBI on allegations of fraud, may struggle to replace the money they've lost thanks to state and federal campaign finance laws.

The Orange County Register reports that state and federal laws limit how much an individual may give a candidate to $2,500 per election at the federal level and $3,900 per election at the state level. This prohibits donors from replacing any money stolen from a given lawmaker if they've already maxed out their contributions to that lawmaker.

Durkee has been accused of stealing campaign funds from several of her former clients, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said Durkee "wiped out" her account. Politico reports that Feinstein had just over $5 million in the bank as of June 30, according to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

A spokesperson for Rep. Loretta Sanchez also came forward after Durkee's arrest, noting that the congresswoman believes $379,000 -- virtually all of her campaign money -- was taken from her account.

According to CNN, Durkee allegedly spent funds stolen from her clients' accounts to pay for her mortgage and to make the payroll of her firm, Durkee & Associates. An affidavit by FBI Agent Reginald Coleman says she also used her clients' funds to pay off credit card bills, cover her mother's assisted living facility costs and pay for other personal expenses.

Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, told the Register that state candidates do have the option of raising money for a legal defense fund, which could be used to seek money from Durkee.

The laws limiting constituent donations could cause complications for Durkee's former clients, including Feinstein, Sanchez, Rep. Susan Davis, Assemblyman Jose Solorio, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and several political action committees.

There are potential ways for Durkee's victims to get around the law. Federal lawmakers may formally ask the Federal Elections Commission for permission to raise funds above the legal limit, and state lawmakers can attempt to pass legislation that would allow candidates to take money from donors above the limit.

Since Durkee's arrest, her firm has been ordered to refrain from providing further accounting services.

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