GOP Convention Preview: Dem Cash Scandal Notes


Rejecting the sage advice Calbuzz offered them, GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have basically told the hundreds of dedicated activists of the California Republican Party, who will convene in Los Angeles today through the weekend, “You are irrelevant, meaningless and worthless.”

Romney, who has a seaside mansion just down the road in La Jolla and who will be doing three fat dollar fundraisers in California on Friday, and Perry, who just did a series of Golden State cash grabbers, have opted to skip the state GOP convention, leaving the field to Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul (oy).

They appear to have concluded that the Republican nominee will have been chosen by next June, when California holds its presidential primary, and therefore there’s no need to recruit and fire up grass roots conservatives. That’s the only way to interpret their decision because if the state’s 172 GOP delegates are still in play next June, neither campaign is likely to have enough money to seriously advertise on TV in California’s hugely expensive media markets.

According to the latest Field Poll, Romney leads Perry 28-20% among Republican voters statewide, but among the activist crowd, Tea Party identifiers and born-again Christians, Perry leads Romney 33-23% and 28-19%. By not showing up, both candidates are sticking fingers in the eyes of those potential volunteers.

We can understand why Romney might be a little gun shy since he’s getting California advice and counsel from former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. She got skewered at a couple of California GOP conventions during her 2010 campaign for governor. “Mitt, don’t even think about getting mixed up with those loons,” Whitman told Romney, according to sources close to our imagination.

But Perry is missing a bet. He’s just the kind of gun-loving, God-fearing, abortion-banning, tax-hating, tough-talking candidate California Republican Party conventioneers adore. Instead of lining up support, he’s flipping them the bird.

Of course, part of the reason the big boys may want to stay away is news that a group of GOP moderates – incorporating some of the advice Calbuzz has freely proffered – are seeking to tone down some of the explicit arch-conservative language in the California GOP platform, in hopes of appealing to a broader swath of voters.

According to a handy spreadsheet put together by our knuckle-dragging friend Jon Fleischman – who vehemently opposes the proposal – the new platform would remove a specific call for withholding government benefits to illegals, remove specific support for two-thirds votes on tax measures, wipe out platform language relating to allowing concealed weapons and ending waiting periods for gun purchases, remove mention of support for “English only” laws, take out support for three-strikes laws, wipe out specific anti-abortion language and much, much more.

As the AP’s Michael Blood describes the proposal:

“A proposed rewrite of the California Republican Party platform retreats from opposition to same-sex adoption, domestic partner benefits and child custody, avoids any mention of overturning Roe v. Wade and drops a demand to end virtually all federal and state benefits for illegal immigrants.”

Calbuzz, of course, is agnostic about the Republican Party platform which nobody but a handful of political proctologists pay much attention to. Except that it’s always useful to ask candidates for high office if they agree with the GOP plank that asserts that life  begins at conception and ends at natural death, opposes all abortions and calls for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Why is this worth asking? Because no candidate at the top of the ticket – for president, U.S.  Senate or governor – who is not pro-choice has won in California since 1988.

Looks like the platform debate won’t really be decided until next year, but it will be gearing up this weekend. And the entire Calbuzz National Affairs and Emmy Watching Bureau will be there to tell you what happened.

Kunta Kinte meets Durward Kirby: Nice work by Old Chronicler Carolyn Lochhead hosing down Politico’s breathless story about Senator Difi having her $5 million re-election campaign fund “wiped out” by the widening scandal involving Democratic accountant Durward Kirby  Kunta Kinte Kinde Durkee.

As the Senior Senator from California was coming off the Senate floor the other day, Politico ambushed her with a question about the mess. Herself, apparently afflicted by one of her occasional episodes of logorrheic shoot-from-the-hip disease (see: Ejaculations, premature) blurted out, “I was wiped out too.” To her credit, she instantly added the rather important phrase, “we don’t know how much.”

To their discredit, Politico has little use for nuance and subtlety, and so rushed out – Win the morning! – with a misleading hed (“Feinstein: ‘Wiped Out’ by Scandal”) that probably generated a few extra page views but did absolutely nothing to clarify this complicated and murky story.

So Lochhead got stuck with cleaning up Politico’s mess, with a clear explainer beneath a headline that was unquestionably more boring (“Dianne Feinstein campaign: no idea how much money is missing”) but also, you know, accurate:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s $5.2 million re-election war chest may or may not be “wiped out” by trusted, and now arrested, treasurer Kinde Durkee, as the senior California Democrat has implied.

Politico skinned back the next day, employing the cheap old MSM trick of sneaking a correction (or “clarification” as they doubtless would have it) in the 1,2,3,4,5 – sixth paragraph of a snooze analysis that was considerably less electrifying than their original yarn:

Democratic Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Susan Davis and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party have already announced that they’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to Durkee’s allegedly long-running illegal activities.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein is afraid that her $5 million-plus campaign fund may have been “wiped out,” although her aides say they’re not sure how much may be missing (emphasis ours).

(Slight digression: Debra Saunders points out in a brief but lucid blog post – <Confidential Carrot Top memo: maybe write short all the time?> – that Costco Carla Marinucci has been sniffing around suspicious Durkee activities since at least 2007, when she linked the firm to a shady operation called Californians for Obama.  She later followed up with a story noting that Durkee’s company had made at least $10K from the outfit. With our impeccable news judgment, Calbuzz doubtless would have trumpeted both of those stories, sparing everyone all the current angst, but unfortunately we weren’t in business yet).

The bottom line: Durkee apparently operated about 400 separate accounts, both political and corporate, using an unknown number of Bernie Madoff-style transactions to allegedly move money all over, through and in between them.

The accounts are now frozen, and it’s going to take a battalion of forensic accountants to untangle the mess, and determine what was stolen, what was shuffled around, how much is left and where it all resides.

As far we can tell, the only pol whose losses so far have been confirmed  is Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who’s named in the criminal complaint against Durkee. It’s unclear how long the untangling will take, however, so it seems prudent, to say the least, for any candidate or committee with a Durkee account to start refreshing the campaign treasury pronto.

Whether they’re “wiped out” or not.



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There are 3 comments for this post

  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    Durkee dipped into non-profits as well, according to California Watch. What’s not mentioned in most of the articles on this subject is that handing over financial control to one person is both dangerous and stupid. At least two people should be required to sign checks or otherwise move money in any significant amounts. Candidates or companies or organizations that get wiped out in such a game are pointing to their own managerial incompetence.

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Interestingly, The Independent from London, England, is the only source I’ve seen that has reported that Durkee was repeatedly fined over a 10-year period for violations of campaign reporting laws. It would behoove some of our crack journalists right here in the old US of A to see if they could verify this claim.

    If true, I’d also love to see Ms. Marinucci follow up on her earlier–and clearly largely ignored reporting–to see who, if anybody, was responsible at these campaigns for supervising the treasurer’s work. You know, by maybe checking references before they hired her. Looking at a bank statement. Or even just reading the Chron. The standard things most businesses do to keep tabs on their money (except, it appears investment banks that handle billions of dollars of client trades).

    Like Katie Couric, it worries me that we might be electing people to high public office who don’t even read the newspaper. Or hire somebody to check a bank statement. Should we entrust these folks with caring for our system of checks and balances? Or voting on the federal budget?

    Somebody intrepid reporter might want to ask the bank Ms. Durkee used why they didn’t notice large and frequent transfers between supposedly unconnected accounts. Again, according to The Independent, this is how she covered her tracks for so long.

    Finally, inquiring minds want to know why everybody uses the same consultants over and over all the time. It doesn’t appear to be based on results. Joe Trippi has lost far more elections than he’s won, but continues to be acclaimed as some kind of guru. If The Independent is right, it doesn’t appear to be based on competence or probity. Rather, it looks suspiciously like being in the “cool” crowd at school. Once you’re in, you’re in. And anybody else who wants to join the crowd wants to be your BFF.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Oops! “Some intrepid reporter.”

      And Mr. Stetson is spot on! The bookkeeper for my little business doesn’t generate a single check without my approval. And I sign them all. Nobody has yet accused me of managerial competence. I just thought it was common sense. Or maybe it’s because it’s my money, not other people’s donations.

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