by: Essex Porter Updated:SEATTLE —
King County prosecutors charged a political operative Wednesday with stealing as much as $300,000 in campaign money to fund his drinking and gambling problem.
Prosecutors are accusing Michael King of eight counts of theft beginning in 2011. They say he moved $250,000 to $300,000 to his personal bank accounts.
King was director of the Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee. One of the co-chairs is Senate Democratic Leader and Seattle mayoral candidate Ed Murray. "When we discovered it, we turned it over to the authorities immediately," Murray said.
But current Mayor Mike McGinn says Seattle citizens are suffering the consequences. "Because Sen. Murray had $250,000 stolen from under his nose at the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, he lost the Senate," McGinn said.
McGinn says the stolen money could have won a Vancouver Senate race that Democrats narrowly lost. That loss gave Senate Republicans a majority they used to block a transportation funding package. And that creates the risk of big cuts to King County Metro bus service.
"Sen. Murray's failure to hold on to the Senate majority leadership in Olympia means that we're going to see 17 percent cuts in transit at a time when we need it the most." McGinn said.
But Murray refuses to let McGinn deflect attention from the city's troubles.
"I realize the mayor wants to blame me for the failure of public safety in the city, for the failure of transportation," Murray said. "If I'm mayor, I'm going to take responsibility."
Court documents show King confessed to police. He says he used the money to pay for alcohol and gambling.