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Tougher fraud rules proposed in response to Durkee probe

September 30, 2011 |  1:39 pm

The head of the state’s ethics agency Friday proposed additional action to prevent fraud in the handling of political funds in response to a federal investigation into embezzlement allegations against campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee.

The Fair Political Practices Commission will also give those candidates affected some leeway in meeting financial reporting requirements after attorneys for some politicians said Friday that their records have been withheld by banks and expressed concern that other needed documents possessed by Durkee have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

The treasurer was arrested Sept. 2 and is accused of taking $677,181 from the campaign of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana). Investigators are also looking at her handling of other campaign accounts. Durkee was treasurer for some 400 committees, including those of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).

Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the state commission, said during an informational hearing by her agency in Sacramento that the allegations represent "the most extensive campaign treasurer fraud in the history of California.’’

In response, Ravel proposed that the state agency  require all campaign treasurers to undergo training in proper handling of campaign money and how it is restricted by state laws, and she said the agency will post the results of investigations into violations by treasurers on its website.

"Mandating training would not only assist with compliance with the Political Reform Act but it would also serve as a tool to eliminate fraud,’’ Ravel told the campaign representatives attending Friday’s hearing. If the commission agrees with the idea, it likely would have to get legislation approved to give the agency authority to require the training, a spokeswoman said.

The full commission will meet Oct. 13 in Los Angeles to consider additional relief for campaigns, including a request by some to temporarily lift political contribution limits for candidates whose money is not available because of the Durkee case.

-- Patrick McGreevy