Former state Democratic official pleads guilty

SEATTLE — The former executive director of a state Senate Democratic campaign committee pleaded guilty Thursday to theft, admitting he embezzled up to $330,000 in campaign contributions, much of which was spent at casinos.

Prosecutors are recommending a two-year prison term for Michael Walter King, 32, when the Seattle man is sentenced Nov. 22 in King County Superior Court. He’ll also have to pay $250,000 in restitution.

The fund was established to help Democratic candidates win state Senate elections. Charging papers say King swindled campaign funds with faked expenses, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

King spent about an hour at the King County Jail being fingerprinted and was released until sentencing.

Charging papers indicate King began embezzling funds March 28, 2011, weeks after he was hired as executive director of the statewide organization that was established to help Democratic incumbents and candidates win election to the state Senate. But the ongoing thefts weren’t uncovered until after the November 2012 election when King sought to be reimbursed for thousands of dollars he said had been paid to online polling and auto-dialing companies, the charges said.

The suspicious board of the campaign committee hired a law firm to investigate. It found King had been depositing campaign funds into his own bank account, the charges said.

Police detectives found he had made multiple withdrawals at area casinos, including Goldie’s in Shoreline, the Tulalip Casino in Marysville and the Silver Dollar Casino in SeaTac, according to charging documents.

The co-chairs of the campaign committee, state Sens. Ed Murray, Sharon Nelson and David Frockt, acknowledged the thefts may have affected the balance of power in Olympia.

In Southwest Washington last year, Democrat Tim Probst fell just 74 votes short of unseating Republican state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. A few months later, Republicans joined with two conservative Democrats to seize control of the state Senate with a ruling “majority caucus.”

“When you have a race where the margin was 75 votes … I think everything could make a difference,” Frockt said.

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