Democratic congressional aide admits embezzlement


    A former aide to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett has acknowledged embezzling
    more than $166,000 from the Democrat’s campaign fund and from other
    groups, according to her attorney.

    Kristi Willis, 37, has
    apologized and intends to pay the money back, her lawyer said.
    Meanwhile, Travis County prosecutors are investigating.

    Willis is a longtime ally of Doggett’s and a well-known figure in Austin political circles.

    She
    has acknowledged taking the money from Doggett; another $17,000 from
    state House candidate Andy Brown; and at least $10,000 from the Capitol
    Area Democratic Women, an organization she once served as treasurer.

    Her
    attorney, Charles Grigson, issued a statement saying Willis “deeply
    regrets her action. … She has a serious personal psychological
    problem that has manifested itself in a spending addiction for which
    she is seeking long-term professional help.”

    Willis worked in
    Doggett’s Austin office from 1998 to 2004, most recently as his
    district director, said James Cousar, Doggett’s campaign treasurer.

    Grigson said the misappropriated money was for meals and nights out, not big-ticket items.

    “If it was something expensive like a Mercedes, we could sell the car and pay some back,” he said.

    Willis
    or her family has already paid back $40,000 to Doggett’s campaign, all
    the money to Brown’s campaign and $2,000 to the Capitol Area Democratic
    Women, officials said.

    Claire Dawson-Brown, chief of the Travis County district attorney’s grand jury division, said her office is investigating.

    Brown
    has said he does not intend to press charges. Cousar said that no
    decision has been made whether Doggett will pursue charges.

    Brown
    and Doggett’s offices and the Capitol Area Democratic Women said
    Wednesday that they now have policies in place to verify their spending.