OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
A former Democrat state senator and party chairwoman was arrested for wire fraud after allegedly using campaign contributions for personal expenses, particularly for gambling purposes.
Former Louisiana state senator Karen Peterson, who represented the 5th Congressional District for more than a decade, has resigned, citing mental health and “gambling addiction.”
The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Peterson’s law license following her guilty plea, where she will more than likely be disbarred.
Peterson, who served as the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party from 2012 to 2020, is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7.
Peterson could receive up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release if she is imprisoned.
Peterson had received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the Black Lives Matter PAC to help her win the congressional seat for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana said Peterson conned campaign contributors for at least seven years.
“As a Louisiana State Senator, Peterson formed and maintained a campaign organization, the Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund (KCPCF), to solicit and raise campaign funds from individual and corporate donors,” U.S. Attorney Michael Simpson stated in his legal filing. “The campaign funds were solicited based upon the representations and premise that the funds would be used to facilitate Peterson’s reelection for the position of State Senator.”
She also had control of campaign contributions received by the Louisiana Democratic Party for supporting party candidate campaigns, which she also allegedly dipped into.
Prosecutors contend the disgraced Democrat used the illegally obtained money for personal expenses unrelated to her campaign, including paying gambling-related expenses. She compounded her crime by asking contributors for more contributions without disclosing she had used previous donations for personal expenses, the U.S. attorney declared.
US-LA: Former state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s (D) law license suspended as she awaits criminal sentencing for defrauding contributors of nearly 150,000 USD to help pave over her #gambling troubles https://t.co/5WcIUdSys9 via @nolanews
— Janne Nikkinen (@DocNikkinen) August 20, 2022
The IRS press release stated:
According to court documents, Peterson served as a Louisiana state senator for the 5th District from about 2010 until about April 8, 2022, and as the chair of State Political Party A between about 2012 and 2020. As a Louisiana state senator, Peterson formed and maintained a campaign organization, the “Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund (“KCPCF”),” to solicit and raise campaign funds from individual and corporate donors. The campaign funds were solicited based upon the representations and premise that the funds would be used to facilitate Peterson’s reelection for the position of state senator. In furtherance of her scheme, Peterson diverted and caused her friends and associates to divert, campaign funds from the KCPCF to Peterson’s personal use for the purpose of obtaining and using money and property from contributors to the KCPCF by means of materially false and fraudulent representations and promises for nearly 7 years.
She did so by writing checks drawn on the KCPCF account to her friends and associates and directing them to cash the checks and then give most or all of the proceeds to her. Peterson used the funds to pay for personal expenses unrelated to her campaign or the holding of public office, including to pay gambling-related expenses, and, in the course of soliciting additional contributions, failed to disclose to potential contributors that Peterson had already used funds contributed to the KCPCF for her personal benefit. Further, Peterson caused the public filing of false and misleading campaign finance reports that mischaracterized expenditures as being for legitimate purposes related to her campaign or the holding of public office but were, in fact, unrelated to such purposes and, instead, were diverted to Peterson’s personal use.
Robert Collins, a Dillard University political analyst, noted how this was an epic fall from grace.
“It’s definitely a fall from a very high place, not only was she powerful herself, of course, she comes from a political family,” Collins said. “So, I think most people would see that as worse than simply spending your own funds on a gambling addiction which is bad enough, so I think there’s an issue of trust there.”