U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's attorney has asked the Federal Elections Commission to allow the California Democrat to collect more cash from donors who gave her campaign money that was allegedly stolen by her former treasurer.
The Feinstein campaign is seeking to recoup about $4.5 million that was found to be missing from her campaign account in the wake of the arrest of prominent Democratic Treasurer Kinde Durkee. Durkee, who was arrested last fall, faces federal fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating more than $600,000 from a campaign account she managed for Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Other political and nonprofit clients, including Feinstein, have accused her of stealing millions more in statements and court filings.
Feinstein's attorney argued in a document filed with the commission that the longtime senator should be able to ask donors for more cash despite contribution limits. Given Durkee's alleged actions, Feinstein argued, the contributions given for her 2012 re-election bid cannot be considered accepted by the campaign for its use.
"The Committee -- and its donors -- suffered a severe injustice at the hands of Durkee," attorney Marc. E. Elias wrote in the 98-page opinion request. "In the past, the FEC has shown a commendable willingness to rectify wrongful acts, where the law allows it to do so. The law clearly allows it to do so here."
The filing,which was first reported by Politico, cites several examples of cases where replacement checks were permitted by the commission.
Feinstein consultant Bill Carrick told The Bee he believes the campaign can "make a good case that (the money) has been stolen, embezzled and been used to cover (Durkee's) ponzi scheme."
"As a result, we've ended up not having access to this money because it was embezzled and was not available for the campaign to spend in the ways the donors intended it to be spent," he said.
A FEC spokeswoman wrote in an email that the commission has until April 23 to issue an opinion.
Feinstein, who has filed a lawsuit against the bank Durkee used for the accounts, has replenished her campaign account with $5 million of her own money.
A spokesman for Elizabeth Emken, a Republican challenging Feinstein, criticized the move in a statement, saying the senator "wants to game the system because she was asleep at the wheel with her own campaign funds."
"If she can't take care of her own money, how can Feinstein be expected to take care of the American taxpayers' money?" spokesman Mark Standriff said.
A preliminary hearing in the Durkee case, which has been delayed several times, is scheduled for Tuesday. The state Fair Political Practices Commission has not decided whether state candidates can accept additional money to make up for their Durkee-related losses.