BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Louisiana lawmaker will pay a $37,000 fine to the state treasury over three years, under an agreement approved Friday in which he acknowledges misspending the dollars from his campaign account to “fund a gambling habit.”
Lafourche Parish Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard must amend his campaign finance documents and won’t be able to withdraw money on his own from his campaign account, as part of the settlement reached with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
The board approved the settlement - known as a consent opinion - on Friday without objection and with little discussion of its contents. Richard didn’t attend the hearing, but had already signed the agreement and acknowledged he violated Louisiana’s campaign finance laws.
Richard, who is not affiliated with a political party, announced the settlement and fine last week, saying he believes compulsive gambling was a side effect to anti-Parkinson’s disease medication he used. He said he started gambling with his campaign cash after running through all his personal money.
The settlement says Richard illegally spent $37,000 in campaign funds from January 2012 through July 2016 “for his personal use to fund a gambling habit or to pay debts he could not pay because of his gambling.” The ethics board says he also filed an inaccurate campaign finance report to mask that he was spending the dollars for personal use in violation of the law.
The lawmaker said he believes medication he had been taking to control hand tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease contributed to what he described as a gambling addiction that began when he started taking the drug and ended when he stopped taking it last year.
Studies have shown that anti-Parkinson medications occasionally spark compulsions like pathologic gambling, including the drug that Richard said he was taking. Richard said he’d never had an interest in gambling before he began taking the drugs in mid-2011.
The state lawmaker agreed to pay the $37,000 penalty in an installment plan, with the first $2,500 due Oct. 1, $10,000 due by Dec. 31 and the rest submitted in quarterly payments through December 2020.
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