Politics & Government

California Sen. Feinstein 'not terribly worried' about campaign fund loss

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday that she's not distressed by losing millions in campaign cash at the hands of treasurer Kinde Durkee, an act she termed "a big betrayal."

Feinstein, in Sacramento to speak to community leaders and tour area levees, downplayed the effect the setback could have on her re-election campaign this year, given her personal wealth and field of challengers.

"I think I'm in fair shape," the 78-year-old Democrat said. "I don't have a major opponent and I'm not terribly worried about it."

Durkee, the prominent Burbank-based campaign treasurer used by Feinstein and many other California Democrats, pleaded guilty last month to defrauding clients of at least $7 million. Federal prosecutors say the decadelong scheme led to the largest campaign treasurer embezzlement case on the books.

While Feinstein's multimillion-dollar war chest was one of the hardest hit, the wealthy lawmaker was able to refuel her account with $5 million in personal money.

Feinstein said while she had no personal relationship with Durkee, the news was particularly difficult because she had used the treasurer's firm for campaigns in the past.

Feinstein also voiced support for Gov. Jerry Brown's revised high-speed rail plan, saying Brown has "done the right thing" by focusing on a building a high-speed rail line down the center of the state that would then connect to high-population centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But she seemed less confident about federal dollars for the $68 billion project. Brown's plan, which cut the cost by $30 billion from an earlier estimate, relies heavily on federal funding. "Do I think it's doable? Yes. Do I think it's doable with all the bells and whistles? No," Feinstein said. "That's a decision that has to be made."

In a luncheon speech sponsored by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Next Economy Partnership, Feinstein bemoaned the levels of "hyperpartisanship" in Congress.

"I very much hope that the American people will once again take some stock in the greatness of this democracy. That it should not be hamstrung, that it should be allowed to function, that elections do matter and that electing people with knowledge and institutional and historic background does make a difference," she said.

The type of experience touted by Feinstein served as a line of attack for one of the 23 candidates challenging Feinstein on the June 5 ballot.

Danville Republican Elizabeth Emken, who has been endorsed by the California GOP, called for "new energy and a fresh viewpoint" during a Sacramento news conference.

Emken, who has worked as a lobbyist for a nonprofit that advocates for children with autism, criticized Feinstein as a Washington insider who has not done enough to reduce the federal deficit.

"She votes as if she has no idea what most of us are living through right now," Emken said.

To read more, visit www.sacbee.com.