Politician and UCI alumnus Diane Harkey will host the Connect Women to Power conference at UC Irvine’s Student Center on Nov. 4 despite concerns from opponents who argue that Harkey is unfit to speak on the subjects of money and power due to scandal in her family’s financial past.
In 2013, Ms. Harkey’s husband, loan broker Dan Harkey, was involved in a lawsuit which resulted in him paying over $9 million in restitution to victims of “elder financial abuse” after a series of failed investments.
Although Ms. Harkey was absolved of all charges in relation to her husband’s case, opponents of her appearance as speaker at the Connect Women to Power Conference argue that she still benefitted from her husband’s abuse of power and should not be heralded as an exemplary model for women in power.
Writer Kurt Sipolski — one of 80 plaintiffs in the case against Harkey — claims that he lost his life savings due to Dan Harkey’s business practices, and has reacted negatively to Ms. Harkey’s appearance at UC Irvine. Sipolski argues that Ms. Harkey has “benefitted personally, professionally and politically from all of [the plaintiff’s] millions.”
“Many of us who have lost all our savings to Dan Harkey are outraged that his wife Diane will be speaking at UCI about the greatness of being powerful,” said Sipolski, who has contributed to OC Weekly and USA Today regarding his involvement in the Harkey scandal. “Is this the message [UC Irvine] wants to send? Really?”
Ms. Harkey was, however, dismissed as a defendant early in the jury trial against her husband, and claims no direct involvement in the suit.
Ms. Harkey was originally chosen to host the conference due to her influential past in business and politics in Orange County, spanning over 30 years in banking and finance, as well as over a decade in politics.
Ms. Harkey, a Republican, currently serves as an elected board member on the State Board of Equalization (BOE), which is responsible for tax administration and fee collection throughout California. Harkey was elected in 2014 to serve California’s fourth district, encompassing the counties of Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, a portion of Los Angeles and a portion of San Bernardino. She currently serves around 9.5 million people.
Harkey, 64, has lived in Orange County for over 35 years and is an alumnus of UC Irvine, graduating with a degree in economics. She was elected a to Dana Point City Council in 2004 before being elected Mayor of Dana Point in 2007. In 2008, she won the election for 73rd State Assembly district as the Republican candidate. When she became term-limited in 2014, she ran for the California State Board of Equalization to represent the Fourth District and won.
The Connect Women to Power conference, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the Student Center, aims to “help California taxpayers start, grow and maintain businesses in California; expand their operations globally; and comply with the tax laws, policies, and rules.”