Michael King, former executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, has been charged with eight counts of theft.
King stands accused of embezzling up to $300,000 from the committee, which supports state Democratic senate campaigns across the state. Goldy at The Stranger has some strong reporting on the crime, detailing how King’s alleged malfeasance may have set up the coup that cost Democrats control of the Senate. Goldy quotes unnamed sources stating that King’s theft not only deprived the committee of much needed funds, but fabricated polling results to give the appearance the committee was doing more ground work than it actually was.
The SDCC began investigating King last February. The King County Prosecutor yesterday charged King with eight counts of theft. The charges filed describe a fraud consisting of a series of false and excessive reimbursements to King that took place between 2011 and February 2013.
Supporters of Mayor Mike McGinn have been arguing for a while that the theft reflects poorly on the management skills of opponent Sen. Ed Murray, who was a co-chair of the committee during the 2012 election. Today, Murray yet again refuted those accusations, in a statement released jointly with co-chairs Sens. David Frockt, and Sharon Nelson.
“The responsibility for stealing lies with Mr. King who had been a highly regarded Democratic Party consultant. The Senators who moved in and out of the campaign committee historically focused on raising funds, mentoring candidates and being the political face of the campaign, while the Executive Director and Treasurer were responsible for finances and reporting. This is an explanation for what happened and how it happened and the context. However, we acknowledge responsibility for a system of controls that were not sufficient when there was a trusted employee determined to exploit any gaps that, in hindsight, existed.”
...We are deeply disappointed that this theft that occurred. It did, occur however, and we have responded appropriately. We have made the necessary changes that are required to insure that much stronger controls are in place, operationally and financially.”
Update: Here are some highlights of a press conference Murray, Frockt and Nelson held with reporters this afternoon:
1. Alcoholic, gambler, and a damn fine worker: While the senators acknowledge that their controls over money were lacking, they wouldn’t allow that they were negligent in considering King a good worker. Rather, he was able to conduct fine work despite his addictions, they said. “When I was on calls with Michael and candidates, he appeared to be on top of where they were at, how they were doing, and whether they were raising money in the field,” Nelson said.
2. A plea deal is in the works: The senators’ lawyers say prosecutors have a plea deal in place that would give King 24 months in jail. Restitution would be part of the deal.
3. I’ll See Your King and Raise You a Phan: Asked whether, as a leader of the committee, Murray should take responsibility for the embezzlement during his campaign for mayor, Murray gave the McGinn camp reason to pause: If they wanted to talk leadership and embezzlement, what about Joe Phan, who was found to have stolen $1 million from Seattle Public Utilities in 2010?
4. The money kept TV ads off the air: While the viewing public probably didn’t miss it, the senators said the stolen money probably cost them some TV spots in tight races.