She may not have risen to Bernie Madoff's level, but with Kinde Durkee's guilty plea Friday she's grabbed the title of California's biggest campaign finance fraudster. The so-called "Madoff of campaign finance" admitted to embezzling about $7 million from more than 50 campaign clients, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, over a decade-long scam in which she transferred money around the various accounts she controlled in order to cover the fact she was looting them for her own gain. She faces 14 years in federal prison.
As we noted on Wednesday, Durkee used the money to buyTrader Joe's groceries and cover payments on her house, which The Daily Beast's Christine Pelisek described as "weather-beaten and neglected" Spanish-style home in Long Beach whose "lawn was a mix of dirt and grass patches." Far from living high on the hog, Durkee "drove to work in an old pickup and met clients wearing muumuus and flip-flops," using the money she embezzled to pay for basic personal expenses and business costs such as her employees' 401(k) accounts. Let this be a lesson: If you're going to indulge in large-scale embezzlement, at least spend the money on something you can brag about once you're behind bars. There's not a lot of cachet in the receipts for groceries, tools, and veterinary care Durkee has to show for her crime.