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Report: In four years, Louisiana politicians spent nearly $800,000 in taxpayer money . . . on golf

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

How much golf can $779,000 get you? Quite a lot, it turns out.
About $7 million was spent by Louisiana politicians on items like food, gifts and tickets to sporting events between 2009 and 2012, amounting to one third of their total expenses during that period. Nearly $800,000 of that sum went towards rounds of golf, a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune finds.

The chief offender, according to the report, was former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle, who was found guilty in 2011 of taking bribes from a contractor. Hingle spent nearly $87,000 in golf-related expenses between 2009 and 2012. More than $35,000 of that money was spent on a golf tournament in 2009 and 2010 at English Turn Country Club in New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune's online database.

"Given the vagueness of the law, they can basically use these accounts as their personal checking account," University of New Orleans professor Ed Chervenak says in the article, "and there's no real watchdog."

It's not unprecedented for golf to play at least a minor part in political scandals. In 2006, super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty for his role in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that led to the convictions of 21 others. The investigation found that Abramoff funded multiple golf trips and outings.

More recently, golf appeared 25 times in the indictment of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, who is alleged to have accepted more than $3,500 in green and caddie fees, among other gifts that he and his wife, Maureen, are accused of having improperly received.

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