MAILANDER’S LA-As LA's top local political scandal of the past decade involves a Democratic campaign treasurer, you'd think that someone in this town of Democrats could finally make something add up.
But after five years of inquiries into what really went on in the Kinde Durkee fraud case, even the most interested parties are uninterested in balancing the books.
Durkee you may recall, whom "Federal officials" put in the news last week, was sentenced to eight years in prison a year ago, and also ordered to pay $10.5 million to state and local Democrats for stealing campaign funds from them.
That's a lot of grifting. In fact, according to my old banker's calcs, that amount could set five people up for life.
You see, at 4% earnings or interest, $10 million grosses five souls $80,000 a year--in perpetuity.
But the problem for state and local Democrats is, fourteen months after the conviction, they still can't get a story together on where Kinde Durkee's money actually went. In fact, they're even blaming Kinde's love of ice cream.
After such a conviction, the defrauded typically get in queue to garner some cash back. The top name claiming the top amount of swindle, Senator Dianne Feinstein, hasn't been able to retrieve even two percent of what she's owed.
Yet one of Feinstein's own attorneys in the case, Justin Berger, is ready to throw in the towel, apparently. Berger told the LA Times last week that "We think the money was frittered away over the years. There is no big pot of money sitting somewhere."
Now why on earth would Berger--representing the State's top defrauded Democrat--insist on that, when he's presumably hoping to get some money back for his client?
You may have a right to ask. Patrick McGreevy at the LA Times obviously didn't ask, but he's a journalist.
You might also have a right to ask why, even after a successful felony conviction, with Durkee not talking while safely secured in the concrete chateau for seven more years (watch the time go by rather more quickly than that), forensic accounting has been so inadequate that Berger and everyone else still has no idea where the money went.
In fact, the same Times item reported that "Federal prosecutors allege that Durkee used money from clients’ accounts to pay for Disneyland tickets, ice cream and other expenses billed to her credit cards." None of that could possibly even add up to a tenth of the claimed missing money, but no matter.
This is really crazy, this non-accounting of what should be accounted-for books. After all, even two years ago, the LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus reported that Durkee drove a beater and couldn't keep up her house. Yet somehow she spent $10 million--on Disneyland tickets and ice cream and frittering money away.
Repeating: for the easy reference of the lazy and the louche, even $2 million salted away generates $80,000 a year for life.
In his old Weekly article, Maddaus also hazarded a guess as to where the money went. Durkee's annual payroll, Maddaus reported, "works out to roughly $1.5 million. Add that up over a decade, and you can see where $7 million or more could go."
Indeed. But what's funny about this is that nobody who was paying for that elaborate payroll seemed to be making too much noise about tossing all that money Durkee's way. And nobody's followed up much with the employees either.
Maddaus's theory from two years ago must certainly be ruled out by now if an attorney for Feinstein is still claiming as of last week that he believes the money "was frittered away over the years."
Take LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian, for instance. Nobody's name is listed in conjunction with Durkee campaigns more than Krekrorian's.
At this Daily Kos page first reporting the breaking scandal, Krekorian's name appears on the victim's ledger a whopping 21 times--far more than any other candidate.
Krekorian also claims to have been defrauded by Durkee. Not only that, but he went so far as to introduce a motion to City Council that enabled anyone in City politics victimized by Durkee to retire any campaign debt later than law previously allowed.
Krekorian also claimed $50,000 in campaign debt himself, coincidentally.
Try that with your own debt sometime. Try filing a motion on your own behalf recommending that the right governing body gives you an extension to pay back your own debt.
Nobody on Council objected.
While a lot of Democrats did a brisk business with Durkee, unlike nearly all the other statewide officials Durkee represented, Burbank-adjacent Krekorian is the one politician of seventy-seven that Burbank-settled Durkee may have defrauded whose own campaign operations were right in the 'hood.
The fact that Krekorian didn't know that Durkee may have been defrauding him even while employing Durkee time after time, with her bedraggled boatyard-adjacent office right under his own nose, even spending most of his campaign days right inside of Durkee's one mile zone, is especially odd given that the Councilmember is not some math-challenged straw man candidate, but savvy enough in economic matters to be Chairman of the City's Budget and Finance Committee.
While connecting dots is a pastime better suited for puzzle masters than for "federal officials," the circus of situational ethics that the Kinde Durkee big-conviction-with-little-answers fracas has become invites far more dot-connecting than local media and even local Democrats alike have been willing to engage.
But in a state and a city controlled by Democrats, with the home team's former top treasurer Durkee squirreled away and not talking at all, the invitations for more filling in of these very curious blanks have gone begging.
At very least, we might be inclined to wonder if Durkee's been promised an eight-year supply of ice cream while doing her not-so-hard time at Club Fed.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 12 Issue 8
Pub: Jan 28, 2014