Following the money

Sep 14, 2011

Problems are mounting day by day for Democratic campaign accountant Kinde Durkee, who was arrested Sept. 2 by the FBI and accused of taking $677,000 from a lawmaker's political account. A state regulatory agency says her Burbank firm isn't licensed and barred her company from doing any further accounting business.


From the OC Register's Brian Joseph: "The California Board of Accountancy has ordered Kinde Durkee‘s company to immediately stop providing accounting services after it discovered that Durkee and Associates is not licensed and has no licensed accountants on staff."

"The cease and desist order, dated Tuesday, warns that penalties for not complying “include either a citation and fine up to $2,500 or a criminal citation and prosecution.”


"Spokeswoman Lauren Hersh said the board was never aware of Durkee or her company until news broke of her arrest by FBI. She said board got involved when it saw that Durkee’s company was described as providing accounting services."


Meanwhile, here's a twist: For any candidates who lost money in the widening Durkee scandal, it may be difficult indeed to replace the funds because of stringent campaign finance laws. The OC Register's Brian Joseph tells the tale.


"The problem for those clients is that state and federal laws limit how much money an individual person can give to a candidate ($2,500 per election at the federal level; $3,900 per election for state lawmakers). So, if a donor has maxed out to a particular candidate, that donor is prohibited from giving any more money to that politician – even if that money was stolen from the politician."


"That means in their moment of financial need, when they’ve lost their campaign funds and desperately need more money, Durkee’s clients are prohibited from raising more money from the very people who support them the most, their previous donors."


“It is really a difficult situation they’re in,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s very concerning.”


That special environmental-review exemption for the proposed NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles isn't so special and unique after all, as a number of lawmakers claimed, notes the LAT's Michael Hiltzik.


"Just this once, we were assured. Special case. "Rarest of the rare," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called the occasion. No way the waiver would be a precedent for other big projects, he said."


"Did you believe that? Me neither."

"So no one has a right to be surprised that just last week the Legislature granted another environmental exemption, this time for Anschutz Entertainment Group's proposed NFL stadium downtown."

"And on the reasoning that what's good for the AEG goose is good for the entire development business gaggle, the Legislature promptly passed yet another environmental exemption, this time a gift so open-ended that no one has any idea how many big construction projects will be shaded beneath its capacious boughs. Both bills are currently on Gov.Jerry Brown's desk."


Sometimes there is justice in the world, and this episode might be a case in point: A man who was fired from his job during his recovery from cancer surgery has received a record award from state regulators.


From the Chronicle's Bob Egelko: "A state civil rights agency has ordered an electrical supply company to pay a record $846,000 for firing its Novato-based regional sales manager on the pretext that he wasn't spending enough time traveling to meet customers - at the same time he was recovering from cancer surgery."


"The Fair Employment and Housing Commission's award in the case of Charles Wideman is the largest payment it has ever ordered in a discrimination case, said the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which represented Wideman. Nearly all of the award is compensation for Wideman's losses, but it also includes a $25,000 fine to the state for what the commission described as "despicable conduct" on the part of Acme Electric, based in Wisconsin."


"Acme Electric's parent company, Actuant Corp., declined comment Tuesday. The company, which argued that it had dismissed Wideman because of work deficiencies and the declining economy, could appeal the ruling in court."


Whatever the complaints from Wall Street ablout California's credit rating, the state's short-term debt deal did a brisk sale on its first day, notes the LAT's Tom Petruno.


"Yield-hungry individual investors on Tuesday put in orders to buy more than half of the short-term notes that California is selling this week to raise cash."


"Brokerages handling the deal for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer said they had orders for $3.05 billion of the notes, or 56.5% of the planned $5.4-billion deal, by late afternoon."


"The brokerages will continue to take orders from individual investors on Wednesday. Institutional investors will bid for what’s left on Thursday, which is when final interest rates will be set."


"The state is preliminarily estimating that the nine-month notes will pay an annualized tax-free yield of between 0.40% and 0.55%. Because that interest is exempt from state and federal income taxes it’s equivalent to a higher taxable yield, depending on an investor’s tax bracket."


And from our "Politics is Show Business for Ugly People" file, we offer a treat for those following the exploits of Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, here's a collection of photos from The Atlantic that offers a look of Russia's Mr. Macho.  Our favorite is the meeting with the bikers....



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