Charges: Up to $300K stolen from Wash. Senate Dems

SEATTLE (AP) - The former head of a campaign committee supporting Democratic state Senate candidates has been charged with theft after prosecutors said he admitted embezzling up to $300,000 to feed his drinking and gambling habits.

Michael King, 32, faces eight counts of theft in King County Superior Court. Charging papers filed Tuesday say he confessed to stealing $200,000 to $300,000.

"I did these things and I have to accept consequences and I do," King said during a recorded interview with a prosecutor, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case.

King, who had been respected in political circles for his acumen, headed the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, which fielded donations from political action committees, companies and individuals and directed them to Democratic senators and candidates.

The financial irregularities came to light after a review discovered that King had appeared to have spent significant sums on polling after last fall's election, when there was no reason to conduct polling, Seattle police said.

His bank account showed dozens of withdrawals made at Goldie's casino in Shoreline, the Tulalip Casino in Marysville and the Silver Dollar Casino in SeaTac, a detective wrote in the probable cause statement.

King's attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. His arraignment has been set for Oct. 7. He faces a sentencing range of 22 to 29 months, said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office, who declined to confirm whether a plea deal had been reached.

The co-chairs of the committee, Sens. David Frockt, Ed Murray and Sharon Nelson, issued a statement saying the thefts began in 2011 and accelerated in February 2012, when King was given the authority to write checks himself rather than request reimbursements through Argo Strategies, which served as the committee's treasurer.

Blame squarely lies with King, the senators said, but they added, "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."

They said they have adopted new rules to ensure greater oversight for campaign donations. Among them, the committee's executive director will no longer be able to obtain independent check-writing authority. The chairs also said they are monitoring and reviewing the financial books monthly.

___

Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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