The New Orleans Advocate: Where's the line between acceptable and illegitimate campaign expenses? Figures like Walter Reed, John Alario, David Peralta bring attention to trend
Larry Noble, senior counsel at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center in Washington, shares Chester’s skepticism about whether the Justice Department is turning up the heat on local campaign finance scofflaws in any orchestrated way.
Usually, the FBI and federal prosecutors focus on federal officeholders and candidates — like Edwards and Jackson — but “they’ve always gotten into these (local cases) to some extent. Not very often,” Noble said. When they do, he said, it’s typically because the campaign abuses are eye-popping or else because the politician is under scrutiny for multiple issues.
“Obviously since the (campaign finance) law itself is a Louisiana law, they’re going after the conspiracy to violate the law, the money laundering, income tax violation,” Noble said. “What they’ll look at is the amount of money involved, whether or not it looks like a real scheme to defraud, as opposed to those gray areas. It looks like they’re alleging (Reed) set up a whole scheme to do this. That is often the dividing line for the Department of Justice: Was there a real intent to defraud people, as opposed to buying himself a meal?
“These have popped up periodically. Often there’s some reason this person has come into view of the FBI or the Department of Justice. Something’s going on, and then they start an investigation. I don’t get the sense that they generally go through state-level finance statements looking for problems. Often there’s something else, or they’re looking at somebody else and something like this comes across.”
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