Casinos get a slice of campaign contributions

By MANUEL TORRES The Times-Picayune

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana politicians and special interest groups spent more than $185,000 in campaign dollars at casinos and gambling establishments in three states from 2009 to 2012, records show.
The expenses represent a tiny portion of the millions of dollars in campaign money used for sports tickets and events, meals, entertainment and other expenses that are under fire as watchdog groups push for tighter rules on the use of campaign finances. The casino spending was identified as part of a comprehensive review of campaign expenses by The Times-Picayune and WVUE-TV.
No campaign reported using any contribution money directly for gambling.
Most of the casino dollars went to pay for catered meals, receptions and golf tournaments that in several cases were identified as fundraisers for candidates and a few political action committees. But the casino expenditures also included meals, hotel expenses and Christmas parties.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, for example, spent $387 at Paragon in October 2011, for expenses described only as “hotel” and “meals.” The records did not indicate the campaign purpose of the expenses. Nungesser didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, now in prison for unrelated corruption charges, traveled the farthest of any Louisiana candidate to spend campaign money at a casino. His campaign spent nearly $2,900 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in March 2009, as part of Broussard’s annual trip to that area - often in the company of parish contractors who were generous donors to his campaign.
Broussard’s expenses included $2,497 for a “dinner with supporters,” who were not named in the campaign report.
Paragon Casino & Resort in Marksville received the most campaign payments, totaling nearly $76,000 during the four years analyzed. The Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans followed, with more than $43,000. Boomtown Casino in Harvey rounded up the top three, with more than $15,300 in expenses.
spending at casinos, 2009-2012
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — — Paragon Casino and Resort, Marksville: $75,976
— Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots, New Orleans: $43,359
— Coushatta Casino Resort, Kinder: $29,424
— Boomtown Casino, Harvey: $15,398
— Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel, Lake Charles: $7,151
— Harrah’s New Orleans: $6,532
— Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada: $2,663
— Plantation Truck Plaza and Casino, Houma: $2,500
— L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort, Lake Charles: $1,186
— Hollywood Bay Casino, Bay St. Louis, Miss: $809
— IP Casino Resort, Biloxi, Miss.: $271
— Horseshoe Casino Hotel, Bossier City: $165
— Grand Soleil Casino, Natchez, Miss.: $156.
Source: Campaign Expense reports examined by The Times-Picayune and WVUE-TV.

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