September 13th, 2011, 11:30 am · posted by BRIAN JOSEPH, Sacramento Correspondent

State and federal campaign finance laws may prevent some of Kinde Durkee‘s clients from replacing the money they’ve allegedly lost, the Orange County Register has learned.

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.”

Indeed, neither state nor federal law anticipates a situation like Durkee’s, where a campaign treasurer stands accused of taking money from her clients. Julia Queen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Election Commission said there are no regulations dealing with such a scenario. Ravel said the same is true at the state level.

There are potential solutions, however. At the federal level, Queen said someone could formally ask the Federal Elections Commission if candidates who have had their campaign funds stolen could raise money from donors above the limit. The commission could respond with an decision that would allow additional fundraising above the limit, Queen said. But then again, that’s no slam dunk.

At the state level, Ravel said legislation would have to be passed in order to allow candidates to take money from donors above the limit. There has been lots of talk at the state Capitol that candidates may request an exemption from the Fair Political Practices Commission allowing them to take more money from maxed out donors, but Ravel said Tuesday that that the FPPC has no authority to grant such exemptions.

The only way for a candidate to raise money above the fundraising limit would be through legislation, Ravel said. She said that she thought such legislation may have a chance, given that other lawmakers would be sympathetic to the plight of Durkee’s clients. Ravel also said that she didn’t think legislation crafted to reflect this kind of situation would conflict with the role of the FPPC.

“I don’t see why that would be problematic for the FPPC,” she said, although she noted the entire commission would have to endorse it and that hasn’t happened.

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