NEW ORLEANS – Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans Law School, believes the conviction of St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed on state campaign finance charges is tantamount to federal overreach.
Reed was found guilty on May 2 of 18 of 19 corruption-related counts related to misuse of state campaign funds totaling more than $100,000.
“One thing that was interesting to me as a criminal law professor is that it appears to be an effort to criminalize, or to federalize, state campaign finance laws,” Ciolino recently told the Louisiana Record.
Attorneys for Reed believed the case was a state ethics matter.
“It is unusual to see what otherwise would be alleged violations of state campaign finance laws be ratcheted up to federal fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges,” Ciolino said. “But that’s what happened.”
Reed was also convicted of making false statements on his tax returns.
His son, Steven Reed, was also convicted on one count each of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Walter Reed allegedly gave his son campaign money and then lied by saying it for campaign expenses.
“What went wrong for Reed was his view of what was permissible under state campaign finance law while generating goodwill for himself as a political candidate,” Ciolino said. “It was broader than the view taken by the government, and, ultimately, taken by the jury.”
Other experts believe the verdict sends a message that the federal government will crackdown on state campaign funds violations. Stephanie Grace, political columnist for the New Orleans Advocate, wrote on the newspapers website, “…Reed pursued payoffs wherever and whenever he saw an opportunity—and had no qualms about using his elected post to enhance his personal bottom line.”
Sentencing for Reed has been set for Sept. 15.