In the new issue of the The Stranger that just hit the streets this morning, I detail the alleged embezzlement of state senate Democratic campaign funds, and how it might have cost Dems control of the Senate and some key pieces of legislation. Because it concerned an ongoing criminal investigation, I didn't have access to the charging documents, and was forced to piece the story together citing unnamed sources.

Well, as it turns out, following months of investigation, charges were filed in King County Superior Court yesterday afternoon (pdf), just after we had gone to press. (Such are the joys of working for a weekly!) The charging documents find "probable cause to believe that Michael King embezzled funds from the now defunct Senate Democratic Campaign Committee for which he was the Executive Director, by submitting false requests for reimbursement for work or other expenditures not conducted ... and spending that money for personal use." King is charged with four counts of theft in the first degree, and four counts of theft in second degree.

Reading through the charging documents it looks like I may have gotten one factual assertion wrong. I had implied that King had the authority to write checks from the moment he was hired in March, 2011, but the charging documents state that King didn't receive check signing authority until early 2012. Whether or not that discrepancy is significant is debatable, but either way, mea culpa.

And speaking of mea culpa's, in response to the charging documents, the SDCC's co-chairs—Senators Ed Murray, David Frockt, and Sharon Nelson—issued a joint statement in which they finally acknowledge a little responsibility for the lax financial oversight on their watch:

Though the campaign committee had operated without incident, in substantially the same form, for nearly a decade before Mr. King came on board, the financial management system failed. The responsibility for stealing lies with Mr. King who had been a highly regarded Democratic Party consultant. The Senators who moved in and out of the campaign committee historically focused on raising funds, mentoring candidates and being the political face of the campaign, while the Executive Director and Treasurer were responsible for finances and reporting. This is an explanation for what happened and how it happened and the context. However, we acknowledge responsibility for a system of controls that were not sufficient when there was a trusted employee determined to exploit any gaps that, in hindsight, existed.

There. Was that so hard? (Murray had previously denied all responsibility for the scandal.) Frockt, Nelson, and Murray will be holding a conference call with media later this afternoon. In the meanwhile, the full text of their statement is available after the jump.

Statement from Sens. Frockt, Nelson and Murray in response to charges being filed yesterday against former Senate Democratic Campaign Committee co-chair Michael King:

In February of this year, the leadership of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee was notified of the potential theft of campaign funds by SDCC Executive Director Michael King. Within hours of that notification an investigation was begun by outside counsel, the Pacifica Law Group, who immediately informed the King County Prosecutor’s Office. The case was then referred to the Seattle Police Department Special Investigations Section – Fraud, Forgery and Financial Exploitation Unit, which has been investigating the case since that time. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was also notified immediately and we continue to cooperate with the PDC, providing any information that they require. The charges filed against Mr. King today flow from these actions and we continue to cooperate with any and all investigative agencies on this matter.

The King County Prosecutor yesterday charged Mr. King with eight counts of theft. The charges filed describe a fraud consisting of a series of false and excessive reimbursements to Mr. King that took place over an extended period of time. It is estimated that Mr. King embezzled between $250,000 and $300,000. The fraud began in 2011, accelerated starting in February of 2012 when Mr. King was given check writing authority by the Treasurer of the campaign committee, and continued through the 2012 election season and until it was discovered in February 2013.

Though the campaign committee had operated without incident, in substantially the same form, for nearly a decade before Mr. King came on board, the financial management system failed. The responsibility for stealing lies with Mr. King who had been a highly regarded Democratic Party consultant. The Senators who moved in and out of the campaign committee historically focused on raising funds, mentoring candidates and being the political face of the campaign, while the Executive Director and Treasurer were responsible for finances and reporting. This is an explanation for what happened and how it happened and the context. However, we acknowledge responsibility for a system of controls that were not sufficient when there was a trusted employee determined to exploit any gaps that, in hindsight, existed.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those impacted by these events. This is a personal tragedy for all those involved including Mr. King and his family.

We are deeply disappointed that this theft that occurred. It did, occur however, and we have responded appropriately. We have made the necessary changes that are required to insure that much stronger controls are in place, operationally and financially. We believe that these steps will insure that this never happens again. We have re-registered our campaign organizations and with the advice of attorneys written and adopted new rules and policies that insure greater oversight of operations. We have hired a new Treasurer, and members of the Executive Committee are monitoring and auditing the books on a monthly basis to insure that we are properly accounting for the campaign funds entrusted to us. Additionally, the Executive Director does not have and cannot obtain separate and independent check writing authority. We are monitoring and reviewing the books on a monthly basis and are not passively relying on our treasurers, respected as they are, to insure that we are properly accounting for the campaign funds entrusted to us by our supporters.

We have advised many of our supporters of the new structures in place and they have responded generously, understanding that for us to re-take the Senate and move Washington in a new and better direction, we will need their continued support. Last month, our committee out-raised the Senate Republicans. Our members are committed to moving forward and taking back the State Senate in 2014.