Morning Fizz: Ignore the Rules
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring alleged embezzling, partisan complaining, and partisan framing.
1. State senate Democratic leaders held a press conference call Saturday afternoon in response to the story we broke late Friday night that the executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, Michael King, was under investigation for allegedly pocketing thousands of dollars by falsifying SDCC expenditure reports.
Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, Vashon, W. Seattle), one of the co-chairs of the SDCC, which raises money to fund state senate candidates, told reporters Saturday that the SDCC needs to put new levels of control in place, such as an auditor. "We came in and we had a system that we thought had been working well for years," she said.
Nelson, along with co-chairs the Sens. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) and Democratic leader Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), took over the committee fairly recently, and noted that King was already in place when they came on board. (King has been the director since 2011.)
It's not clear yet how much money King may have misappropriated, but records for January show $11,500 in questionable reimbursements to King for things such as "polling."
SDCC lawyers are still reviewing the records; sources say King may have taken as much as $100,000. "The evidence at this point is pretty clear that there was money taken by Michael for his benefit," SDCC attorney Paul Lawrence told reporters Saturday.
King, who reportedly checked himself into the hospital, is cooperating with the investigation through his attorney Lyle Tenpenny, Lawrence says.
Frockt, Murray, and Nelson say their role as SDCC co-chairs is simply to do campaign strategy and fundraising—and that the day-to-day operations were left to King. King has been suspended.
The allegations first came to light last week when Jason Bennett, the SDCC's contract treasurer and compliance director, who's responsible for preparing the group's campaign finance records for the Public Disclosure Commission, alerted Frockt, Murray, and Nelson.
No charges have been brought against King, but Lawrence says he's alerted the King County Prosecutor and the Seattle Police Department.
2. State Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas Island) sent a letter Friday to Lt. Governor Brad Owen, the president of the state senate, complaining about environmental committee chair Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale) for prematurely adjourning the committee while a bill was still up for a vote.
The bill—an environmental priority bill to ban toxic substances from kids' toys—had the five votes to get out of committee, Democrats say, because moderate Republican Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) supports it with along with four Democrats on the nine-member committee.
Ranker wrote: "I fully realize that the Republican majority controls the bills that emerge from committee...But in this case the chair elected to ignore the rules, take his gavel and leave without affording the minority an opportunity to have a vote or a voice."
In case you missed it: Fizz posted video of the committee hearing fracas on Friday morning.
3. Ironically, while Ranker was sending his angry letter to the Lt. Gov. complaining about Ericksen's abuse of power, Ericksen and the Republicans were extolling the camaraderie that was supposedly blossoming between the two.
On Friday, the the Republican-controlled Majority Coalition Caucus posted this note and picture on their twitter feed:
The tweet is a reference to the fact that the committee voted out Gov. Jay Inslee's climate change bill. And while Ranker and the Democrats did vote to pass the bill, environmentalists complain that it was "gutted."
"Shit -- did we really do that?"
4. Speaking of Republicans controlling the messaging war in the state senate, check this out. The Senate Democrats sent out a press release on Friday afternoon (along with a Youtube video featuring Mozart's "Funeral March") listing all the Democratic bills that died in committee after last week's cutoff deadline.
The title of the Democrats' press release: "Good Democrat Bills That Died in Committee."
Using the adjective "Democrat," as opposed to "Democratic" is a GOP ploy to make the Democratic brand sound bad. Looks like the Democrats themselves are now using that Republican framing.
When Fizz sent an email to the Democratic press team alerting them to the gaffe, they wrote back: "Shit -- did we really do that?"
5. Josh will be on KUOW 94.9 this morning at 9:50 talking about the news from Olympia including the SDCC story.