Campaign treasurers can’t seem to keep their hands off money

What does it say that when Bloomberg News reported embezzlements in campaign accounts, I automatically assumed a Nevada race would be mentioned.

After all, when campaigns run in the millions and the required reports are iffy at best when it comes to detailed disclosure, it’s an invitation to steal.

Frankly, I thought some of the ones doing the stealing might be the candidates themselves. But lately, it’s the treasurer of the campaign ripping off the candidate.

Kinde Durkee, treasurer for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was arrested Sept. 2 as part of an alleged fraud. Later that month, the senator sued both Durkee and the bank that handled the senators’s campaign accounts.

Durkee, treasurer for 115 campaign committees, is suspected of embezzling millions from California Democrats.

Using another treasurer, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. lost more than $450,000 from his campaign account.

Bloomberg reported big names and big numbers, citing Joe Biden, D-Del., before he was vice president, who lost more than $400,000, according to his treasurer’s plea in 2004.

Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-North Carolina, lost almost $175,000 in 2004.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told his supporters in 2004 his treasurer stole more than $600,000.

Here’s some advice from the Federal Election Commission, advice Nevada candidates might want to heed :

■ Accounts should be in the name of the committee, not an individual.

■ Require two signatures for checks more than $1,000.

■ Someone not authorized to sign checks should review the bank statements.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but since the treasurer is often someone highly trusted in a campaign, apparently there is some reservation about setting up these basic checks and balances.

Here’s the upbeat side of this story.

Nevada wasn’t mentioned in the Bloomberg piece. Nor can I remember a campaign treasurer in Nevada charged with embezzlement, although such a person may exist.

In Nevada, there’s more a pattern of candidates underreporting contributions than treasurers embezzling.

Ex-Democratic Assemblyman Morse Arberry Jr. faces charges he didn’t report $121,545 in contributions to his 2008 campaign. Civil cases were filed against former Las Vegas City Councilwoman Janet Moncrief and former Assemblyman Chad Christensen, both Republicans, for failing to report contributions.

The money involved in Nevada races is huge .

In the 2010 election, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spent $26 million and GOP challenger Sharron Angle spent $28 million, according to a Washington, D.C.-based campaign finance watchdog.

Over her seven terms in Congress, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley has raised nearly $15 million.

Republican Dean Heller, who entered the House in 1999, the same year as Berkley, raised $6.3 million over the same time.

Now they are both running for the U.S. Senate, and Berkley has $3.2 million cash on hand and Heller has $2.8 million to try to retain his title of "senator" in the 2012 election.

Maybe, just maybe, Nevada candidates have escaped being looted by their treasurers.

Wouldn’t it be comforting if this sort of corruption didn’t exist here, since every other kind seems to flourish?

Hope I’m not planting an evil seed.

Speaking of corruption and thievery, I’m still reeling at Friday’s news that Roman Catholic priest Kevin McAuliffe admitted stealing $650,000 from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church.

Betraying a political candidate is unacceptable, but for a priest to betray his church is unfathomable and heartbreaking to church members and schoolchildren who looked to McAuliffe for moral leadership.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.

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