Longtime St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed has paid his son’s companies almost $95,000 from campaign funds over the past eight years, including $9,022 in 2013, a review by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News found.
Between 2006 and 2012, Reed paid Steven Reed’s two companies, Liquid Bread and Globop, nearly $86,000, campaign records show.
Most of the money paid to the companies in 2013 went to Liquid Bread, which Walter Reed categorizes on his campaign expenditure forms as a “catering” firm.
Liquid Bread was among the top 10 caterers paid by Louisiana political campaigns between 2009 and 2012, according the news organizations’ analysis.
The Department of Health and Hospitals, the state agency that licenses caterers, does not have a catering license listed under the name Steven Reed or Liquid Bread, spokeswoman Olivia Watkins said in a statement. She said the agency would send someone to investigate Liquid Bread, and to talk with the owner about rules, regulations and proper procedures of obtaining a license.
However, Steven Reed, 42, said his company does not require a catering license because he does not “provide any type of food for campaign and fundraising events, only bar setup service.”
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Reed said he provides everything needed to operate an open bar except alcohol. He does not buy or transport beer, wine or liquor, he said.
An invoice Walter Reed submitted for a Sept. 22, 2012, event at the Castine Center in Mandeville listed a $29,400 payment to Liquid Bread, but only a brief description of the services provided: “Beverages and liquor for 2,450 persons at $12 per person.”
The wording of the invoice suggests Steven Reed did provide alcohol for the event, but Reed was adamant that his company was hired only to provide the bar set-up and services, not the alcohol.
When asked what the $12 per person cost covered, Reed said: “The invoice reflects what was served and how much based on the agreed per-person price and the number of people.”
He said the per-person price “was figured based on the price of two alcoholic drinks per the average person.” He said he took into account that some people might drink more, some less and some not at all.
Reed did not explain why the cost of alcohol was taken into account in figuring out the per-person cost if Liquid Bread was not providing the alcohol.
“Boy, that really calls into questions of where that money is going,” UNO political science professor Ed Chervenak said. “You know, what’s it really for? What is Liquid Bread? What are they? What are they doing?”
Chervenak also questioned why Walter Reed’s expenditures list Liquid Bread as a catering expense if the company is not providing catering services.
“That’s certainly going to call into question … is he just handing money over to his son just for the sake of handing money over?” Chervenak said. “Is it just a transfer of funds, or is it just a way to launder funds from the father to the son? We don’t know.”
“I guess that’s one way to keep your son employed … to use your campaign financed money to help (his) business. I wonder if he’s doing any other business other than that with his father.”
The event listed in the invoice is one for which Steven Reed said he provided bar services. A hand-written footnote in the invoice reads, “Ok, per Walter.”
“This is pathetic,” former legislative attorney and political observer C.B. Forgotston said of the invoice Reed provided for his son’s company. Forgotston said there’s no way for the public to verify whether Reed’s campaign got its money’s worth.
Chervenak called the invoice insufficient, adding, “you would like to see more detailed invoices and exactly where that money was spent.”
Aside from the $29,400 payment to Liquid Bread, Walter Reed’s campaign reports show he spent $70,694 on other “catering” costs for the Castine Center event in 2012.
Included in those expenses was $4,762 for Martin Wine Cellar and $35,000 for The Lake House. Louisiana politicians are not required to include receipts or canceled checks with their campaign finance reports.
Walter Reed released a statement through a spokesman, saying: “All contributions from my supporters and expenses described on the financial reports to the state are related to continuing my public service as district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District. I appreciate the confidence my supporters have placed in me.”
Reed, who first was elected in 1984, last faced a political opponent in 1996.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News examined campaign expenses by Walter Reed and other Louisiana officials as part of a comprehensive review of the state’s campaign finance system. The news organizations previously reported on Walter Reed’s campaign payments to Steven Reed’s companies between 2006 and 2012.
Those payments included more than $56,000 to Globop Inc., an event production company that until last November listed Walter and Steven Reed as officers in secretary of state records. Walter Reed was not listed in Globop corporate records filed in late November, after reporters began asking questions about the payments. In a statement in November, Walter Reed said he had “no ownership” in his son’s business.
State campaign laws allow candidates to pay immediate family members for campaign services using money from campaign funds. The business must have been registered with the Secretary of State’s Office for at least a year, the services must be related to the payment, and the value of the services must be “commensurate with the consideration provided.”
Globop was registered in 2002. Liquid Bread was registered in July 2010, 14 months before Reed’s campaign made the first payment to the firm.