Former Dem official gets 25½ months for embezzlement
The former executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years for embezzling up to $330,000 in campaign contributions to fuel his alcohol and gambling habits.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Michael Walter King went from landing his “dream job” as executive director of the now-defunct Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) to busing tables at a Ballard restaurant after he was fired for embezzling at least $330,000 in campaign contributions — money he spent on booze and blackjack, according to his defense attorney.
King, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft in October, was remanded into custody on Tuesday after King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick handed down a 25½-month sentence, ordering King to serve half that time in prison and half in community custody, the state’s version of parole.
While locked up, King, 32, is to undergo treatment for his alcohol and gambling addictions under the state’s Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative.
Erlick also ordered King to pay $250,000 restitution to the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign, the entity that was formed after the SDCC was dissolved in the aftermath of King’s crimes.
King apologized in court for damaging the SDCC and for violating the trust of his friends and family.
“I’ve spent the past nine months cleaning my act up and getting myself sober, but it’s not an excuse for what I did,” he said, adding he takes “full responsibility” for his crimes.
The judge said that while he doesn’t consider King a threat to the community and doesn’t expect him to commit future crimes, a punishment “of over a year in prison does reflect the nature of the crimes.” Erlick added that it’s his hope the sentence will “get Mr. King cleaned up so he can return to the community and pay back his restitution.”
“I think it addressed everyone’s concerns. It’s a lot of money,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott Peterson said of King’s sentence.
King, who is originally from Massachusetts and worked on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign in Iowa, came to Washington to work on U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s re-election campaign, as well as state campaigns in 2006 and 2008, wrote defense attorney Lyle Tenpenny in his sentencing memorandum.
In 2007, King married a woman he’d met during his campaign work before he was hired by the SDCC in March 2011, wrote Tenpenny, describing the position as King’s “dream job.”
An alcoholic who first started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at age 15, King started drinking heavily, gambling and missing work soon after he began work for the SDCC, the sentencing memo says.
“After maxing out his credit cards, burning through savings and borrowing from payday/direct lenders, Michael started to make even worse decisions — to take from his employer,” Tenpenny said in his memo.
King, who doesn’t have a previous criminal history, confessed his crimes to an associate at the SDCC in February and police were called in, according to the defense memo.
King copped to the crimes when he was interviewed by police June 5, according to charging papers when King was charged with four counts of first-degree theft and four counts of second-degree theft. He was able to swindle the campaign fund by requesting reimbursement for faked expenses, the charges say.
After King signed a release to allow detectives access to his bank records, they 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.
Though he’s been sober since April, King, a father of two young children, has seen his marriage collapse and his professional prospects in politics fade, according to Tenpenny’s memo. Before his sentencing, he was living in a “sober house” with seven other people and working at a Ballard restaurant, the memo says.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org