Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pounced today on state Sen. Ed Murray’s attempts to avoid blame for the alleged embezzlement of $250,000 by the director of a Democratic campaign committee Murray co-chaired.
Speaking at a news conference at his campaign headquarters, McGinn called Murray’s response to the thefts of funds from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee “very, very troubling and a real insight into his character as an executive and a leader.”
The SDCC’s former executive director Michael King was charged this week with eight counts of theft for allegedly writing himself checks from the SDCC coffers and covering his tracks by inventing poll results he said the money had paid for.
While Murray yesterday took some responsibility for failing to notice the thefts, he and his fellow co-chairs also pointed blame at the SDCC’s former treasurer, Jason Bennett, who’d alerted them to the thefts in February.
In an earlier interview with the Seattle political news blog, Publicola, Murray also deflected blame to previous co-chairs of the SDCC, including Democratic Congressman Derek Kilmer, the late state Sen. Scott White, and former state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.
“That’s just a really troubling pattern for any executive to take,” McGinn said. “When you have direct oversight of an individual, direct responsibility for getting the right outcomes, to attempt to shift blame in multiple directions is really troubling.”
McGinn noted the $250,000 to $300,000 allegedly stolen by King amounted to perhaps a quarter of the SDCC’s budget. And he said the consequences of the embezzlement were dire for Democrats. The stolen money could have been used to help win a key state senate race in the Vancouver area. Instead, Democrat Tim Probst lost by 74 votes, allowing Republicans to seize control of the state Senate with the help of two conservative Democrats.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Murray dismissed the notion that the embezzlement should be a major issue in the mayor’s race.
“I don’t think this is a conversation that the city of Seattle is going to dig into when we have other problems,” Murray said. After the apparent fraud was brought to his attention, Murray said, he and his fellow SDCC co-chairs “acted responsibly, swiftly and with transparency, and that’s what matters.”