California Campaign Scam Gets FEC Rebuke

Four years after the fact, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has gotten around to chastising the man behind a political action committee called “Californians for Obama” for raising thousands of dollars in support for then-Sen. Barack Obama while obscuring the fact that it didn’t have any actual connections to the future president’s campaign.

The group was run by a self-proclaimed movie mogul named Emmett Cash III, but Kinde Durkee — the major Democratic treasurer who was arrested for allegedly stealing from many of her clients back in September — handled its finances.

Californians for Obama came under FEC scrutiny in October 2007, when a California woman complained to the agency after she paid $2,423.76 to go on a “Women of Power Cruise” that was supposed to take place in September of that year. It didn’t happen and her money wasn’t refunded. The group had been the subject of a July 25, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article that detailed how Cash — who according to the Chronicle had been a registered Republican until June 2007 — had raised nearly $10,000, most of which was paid to himself.In a conciliation agreement reached between Cash and the FEC last month and made public on Friday, Cash contends that Durkee filed an amendment with the FEC naming him as treasurer on Jan. 30, 2009 “without his knowledge or consent.” The agreement states that Cash was in charge of the committee’s strategy and acted on its behalf “almost entirely by himself.”

He acknowledged that he solicited contributions in a manner which “may have led some contributors to believe that they were making contributions to Obama for America, Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign committee.” But Cash maintained he was simply trying to get the word out about Obama’s campaign and that he wasn’t aware what he was doing would be against the law because Durkee did not advise him of the law.

Despite finding against Cash, the FEC decided not to issue a fine because Californians for Obama — which was renamed Californians for Change — currently has just $29.41 in cash on hand and has disclosed debts and obligations of $10,804.73.

The case against Durkee has not yet been resolved, though the FEC found in December of 2008 that there was “reason to believe” that Durkee had violated the law. While a lawyer for Durkee claimed she and her company had “no responsibly for fundraising solicitations or any discretionary authority with respect to expenditures,” but the FEC found the actions were “reasonably calculated to deceive persons of ordinary prudence and comprehension.”

Durkee, of course, has bigger things to worry about, like her upcoming preliminary hearing on March 16. Federal prosecutors and her defense team asked a judge for a delay last month because the government needed additional time to analyze the data in the computers they seized during the investigation.