SAN DIEGO – A congresswoman said her campaign was robbed of about $250,000 and blamed a longtime Democratic campaign accountant who has been charged with fraud, according to a letter to supporters released Monday, as the scope of potential losses came into sharper focus.
U.S. Rep. Susan Davis told supporters her campaign was one of many that were victimized by Kinde Durkee, whose clients included U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein and dozens of other California politicians.
"As this scandal emerges, she may well become known as the Bernie Madoff of campaign finance treasurers," the San Diego Democrat wrote, referring to the Wall Street swindler in an email with the heading, "We've Been Robbed!"
Feinstein's campaign, which had a cash balance of $5 million on June 30, believes it suffered losses but that determining how much will take time, said campaign adviser Bill Carrick. He said Durkee commingled clients' funds, making it difficult to understand whose money went where.
"This is an extraordinarily complex situation," Carrick said. "Nobody really knows what happened here."
Durkee's attorney, Daniel Nixon, didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Durkee had authority over more than 400 bank accounts, including political campaigns, according to the federal complaint filed earlier this month.
The complaint said investigators found substantial sums were routinely placed into her company accounts or channeled to other campaigns, apparently when suspicions were raised about missing money.
Davis told supporters that reports to the Federal Election Commission accurately reflected her contributions and spending but Durkee falsely reported account balances to the campaign. Davis tallied her losses at more than $250,000.
Davis, a six-term congresswoman in a heavily Democratic district, sought to reassure supporters in her email dated Saturday and released Monday.
"If there is any positive news in all of this, it is that although many of her clients lost virtually everything, we had an account in reserve for our operational expenses that she did not have access to (for our ease, not because we suspected anything)," the congresswoman wrote.
Federal prosecutors say Durkee siphoned off nearly $700,000 from a California candidate to pay her credit cards, a mortgage and business bills.
A complaint outlines an elaborate shell game in which Durkee furtively shifted money out of state Assemblyman Jose Solorio's 2010 campaign to pay for an array of debts, from shopping at Costco to her mother's care at an assisted-living facility.
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento, said more charges are likely.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.