SACRAMENTO — A former Democratic campaign treasurer was sentenced Wednesday to more than eight years in federal prison for defrauding high-profile clients such as U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a case that a judge said tampered with the electoral process.
Kinde Durkee, who has been described by prosecutors as the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers, was sentenced to 97 months and ordered to pay $10.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to five counts of mail fraud in March. It’s unlikely, however, that most of the money will ever be repaid, since Durkee has few assets.
During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller emphasized the egregious nature of Durkee’s crimes.
“What she did had an impact on the political and electoral processes on which our democracy is based,” Mueller said.
Dressed in black pants and a black sweater, the 59-year-old Durkee apologized in court to “those who trusted me and I betrayed.”
“I take full and complete responsibility for what I’ve done,” Durkee told the judge, her voice cracking.
Durkee acknowledged in her plea deal to defrauding clients of more than $7 million, though prosecutors believe the figure is closer to $10.5 million.
Feinstein said she lost about $4.5 million in the scam that also targeted dozens of state lawmakers and nonprofit political groups. The restitution order names 77 different victims.
Prosecutors and Durkee’s attorney, Daniel Nixon, said she ran the equivalent of a shell game from her Burbank office, shifting millions of dollars among bank accounts for politicians, community groups, personal accounts and those of her business, Durkee & Associates.
“Ms. Durkee was involved in a business that could not support itself and as a result, she availed herself of her clients’ funds to operate the business,” Nixon said outside court. “She’s an intrinsically good person who did some really bad things here, and today was the day for her to accept responsibility.”
Authorities said she used the money to pay mortgages for her home and business, to pay her employees, care for her parents in a home for seniors and for some pleasure items such as season tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The judge said nothing suggested Durkee lived a luxurious lifestyle, and she asked that Durkee be ordered to serve in a prison that has mental health services so she could receive counseling.
Durkee is scheduled to surrender to U.S. marshals in Los Angeles on Jan. 2. She remains free on $200,000 bond.
“I take full and complete responsibility for what I’ve done.”
— Kinde Durkee,
ex-Democratic campaign treasurer