A Southern California congresswoman told supporters, "We've Been Robbed" as she detailed the losses she said her campaign suffered at the hands of a longtime Democratic campaign accountant who's been charged with fraud.
U.S. Rep. Susan Davis told her contributors in a letter released Monday that her campaign was looted of about $250,000 and she blamed Kinde Durkee, whose clients included U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and dozens of other California politicians.
"As this scandal emerges, she may well become known as the Bernie Madoff of campaign finance treasurers," the San Diego Democrat wrote, referring to the Wall Street swindler in the email.
Feinstein's campaign, which had a cash balance of $5 million on June 30, believes it suffered losses but that determining how much will take time, said campaign adviser Bill Carrick. He said Durkee commingled clients' funds, making it difficult to understand whose money went where.
"This is an extraordinarily complex situation," Carrick said. "Nobody really knows what happened here."
Durkee's attorney, Daniel Nixon, didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Durkee had authority over more than 400 bank accounts, including political campaigns, according to the federal complaint filed earlier this month.
The complaint said investigators found substantial sums were routinely placed into her company accounts or channeled to other campaigns, apparently when suspicions were raised about missing money.
Davis told supporters that reports to the Federal Election Commission accurately reflected her contributions and spending but Durkee falsely reported account balances to the campaign. Davis tallied her losses at more than $250,000.
Davis, a six-term congresswoman in a heavily Democratic district, sought to reassure supporters in her email dated Saturday and released Monday.
"If there is any positive news in all of this, it is that although many of her clients lost virtually everything, we had an account in reserve for our operational expenses that she did not have access to (for our ease, not because we suspected anything)," the congresswoman wrote.
Federal prosecutors say Durkee siphoned off nearly $700,000 from a California candidate to pay her credit cards, a mortgage and business bills.
A complaint outlines an elaborate shell game in which Durkee furtively shifted money out of state Assemblyman Jose Solorio's 2010 campaign to pay for an array of debts, from shopping at Costco to her mother's care at an assisted-living facility.
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento, said more charges are likely.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.