By Dakota Smith, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/01/2011 01:00:00 AM PDT

Big-name politicians aren’t the only ones suffering from the Kinde Durkee scandal. Dozens of small Democratic groups throughout Los Angeles are now scrambling to survive after their bank accounts were frozen amid accusations of embezzlement by the Burbank-based campaign treasurer.

First California Bank has blocked access to hundreds of accounts handled by Durkee while she is being investigated for allegedly stealing millions from her political clients.

Unable to tap its $6,000 bank account that had been managed by Durkee, the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee can’t pay monthly rent on its Camarillo office. Nor can it send out mailers, hold fundraisers or contribute to local politicians.

“We’re left with zero money right now,” said Richard Carter, chairman of the committee. “It’s put us in crisis mode.”

At the Democrats for Israel’s annual fundraiser two weeks ago in West L.A., Chairman Howard Welinksy was forced to write a personal check to the party’s caterer because the group’s bank account was frozen. The group doesn’t even know yet if Durkee took money from them.

“The bank hasn’t told us anything,” he said.

A popular treasurer used by both powerful senators and grass-roots community groups, Durkee was arrested last month on suspicion of federal mail fraud charges after allegedly embezzling money from her clients. Her firm, Durkee & Associates, oversaw 400 bank accounts tied to politicians and political groups.

Durkee used clients’ money to pay her mortgage and cover credit card purchases at places like Costco and QVC, according to the FBI. Durkee told investigators that she had been misappropriating money from her clients’ accounts for years.

The scandal has reverberated across the state.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has sued Durkee for $5 million, alleging funds were stolen from her account. Orange County Assemblyman Jose Solorio is missing at least $700,000, according to his attorney.

At Los Angeles City Hall, at least five City Council members are waiting to see if any funds were taken.

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