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Senate Democrats: Embezzlement Of Campaign Funds Might Have Cost Key Race

Washington Senate Democrats say the misuse of campaign funds last year may have cost them a key race – and therefore control of the state Senate.

That acknowledgement Wednesday comes as prosecutors file theft charges against a former top campaign committee staffer.

Michael Walter King allegedly embezzled $250,000 from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee to feed an alcohol and gambling problem. The former SDCC executive director has now been charged with eight counts of theft.

In a conference call with reporters, Democratic Senator Sharon Nelson acknowledged the embezzlement might have been a deciding factor in a southwest Washington senate race. The Democratic candidate there failed to win that seat by just 78 votes.

“If we had had those funds we potentially could have been on TV and done a better job for Tim Probst," Nelson says. "But that’s hindsight.”

Following that loss, two Democrats defected from their caucus and joined with Republicans to form a new majority coalition. Senate Democrats say they have now opened new campaign committees with new financial oversight systems in place.

A lawyer for Washington Senate Democrats says a plea deal with two years of recommended jail time for King is in the works. However, the King County Prosecutor’s office won’t confirm that. An email to King’s attorney was not returned.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."