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GETTING ANSWERS: Does a candidate not seeking re-election have to return campaign contributions?

Posted at 7:07 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 11:47:16-04

LAKE CHARLES, La. — KATC is investigating after receiving a complaint about a campaign fundraiser for 14th Judicial District Attorney John DeRosier, who is not running for re-election.

Earlier this year, DeRosier's campaign sold tickets at $100/couple for a crawfish boil that was scheduled for April 24th.

According to an ad that ran on the front page in the American Press newspaper in Lake Charles on March 24, the DeRosier crawfish boil had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but no rescheduled date was given.

On May 14, DeRosier announced he would not be seeking re-election, and would retire at the end of his term.

"Alright, so now are we getting refunded?" questions one viewer who wants to remain anonymous. "I felt we were being misled into donating."

The viewer says she bought several tickets in early March, but her check wasn't cashed until May, just a few weeks before DeRosier announced his retirement.

She says she wants the DeRosier campaign to refund her tickets because her contribution went hand-in-hand with an event that never took place.

"They should put out a public notice to everyone who donated, and explain how we are going to get our money back," she said.

KATC Investigates reached out to the Louisiana Ethics Board to see what, if any, recourse donors might have in this instance.

Although the board doesn't comment on specific cases, Kathleen Allen with the Louisiana Ethics Board says a candidate who has raised funds for a campaign in an election year but decides not to seek re-election later that year is not required to return any campaign contributions. Usually, they would just keep the funds for whatever position they would run for next.

However, if they decide not to seek another elected office, those would become surplus funds, which they could either donate to a non-profit organization or another candidate.

A candidate could also give the funds back to his/her contributors on a pro rata basis, which is a proportionate allocation.

She also said there’s nothing in the statutes that addresses a campaign contributor trying to get their money back because they gave it as a contribution.

KATC reached out to the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office for comment.

DeRosier responded by saying that the crawfish boil in late April had to be rescheduled due to the pandemic and was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.

"We want to refund 100% of the money for the crawfish boil tickets," said DeRosier. "The feeling from the staff at the Louisiana Ethics Board is that we can’t refund it in full, but only a pro-rated amount. We are currently seeking a formal opinion from the Louisiana Ethics Board that would authorize us to refund 100% of the money."

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