A Louisiana state lawmaker said Wednesday (Sept. 6) he’s repaying $37,000 that he misspent from his campaign account to gamble, describing an addiction that he said he thinks was a side effect to anti-Parkinson’s disease medication he used. Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard of Thibodaux, said he’s reached a settlement with the Board of Ethics, agreeing to the repayment and acknowledging improper use of campaign donations.
Richard, who is not affiliated with a political party, said he started gambling with his campaign cash after running through all his personal money. “I spent whatever I had to my name, and I started using campaign funds,” the lawmaker, in office since 2008, said in an interview.
The campaign misspending was first reported by the publication LaPolitics Weekly.
Richard said he thinks medication he had been taking to control hand tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease contributed to what he described as a gambling addiction. He said it began when he started taking the drug and ended when he stopped 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 drugs involved, I’m sure they had something to do with it,” he said. “But I’ve taken responsibility, and I’m moving forward.”
The lawmaker said he sent a statement explaining the ethics violation to every House member. Richard said he doesn’t plan to resign.
“The hard part is facing the public,” he said. “I’m just asking forgiveness is all I can do.”
Ethics administrator Kathleen Allen on Wednesday would not confirm that a consent agreement has been reached with Richard.