BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana state lawmaker said Wednesday he’s repaying $37,000 he misspent from his campaign account to gamble, describing a gambling addiction that he said he believes was a side effect to anti-Parkinson’s disease medication he used.
Lafourche Parish Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard said he’s reached a settlement with the Board of Ethics, agreeing to the repayment and acknowledging the improper use of campaign donations. He said the board will announce the consent opinion at its meeting next week.
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 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 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.”
Kathleen Allen, state ethics administrator, said Wednesday that she can’t confirm a consent agreement has been reached with Richard.