From feeling like she was the center of his universe to feeling like she was being set up for something, Claire Ursin still seems dizzy from her roller coaster ride of a relationship with St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed.
'He's a word artist. He's a politician. He's got charisma, extremely flattering, very persuasive, funny, witty. I felt like we were very compatible,' Ursin said about what attracted her to him.
Their decade-long romance ended partly because of events surrounding Reed's last major fundraiser at the Castine Center in Mandeville in 2012, according to Ursin. The band America was a 1970's sensation, and in 2012, their performance at that fundraiser gave Reed what he described to friends as one of the most successful fundraisers he had ever had.
A few months after that event, Ursin moved thousands of miles away to Colorado to separate herself from Reed. That's where we met her for an on-camera interview.
The War Chest
'As the relationship continued, I realized he had this, what he referred to as his war chest, his campaign fund. And then I realized that some of these dinners and some of these things that were held were paid for with campaign money,' she said.
It was Ursin's birthday party at Dakota restaurant in Covington that Reed reported as a 'meeting' in his 2005 campaign finance report. Reed reported using $2,800 dollars in campaign funds for that 'meeting', but a custom menu that Ursin kept from the dinner tells a different story about what it really was.
Robert Travis Scott is President of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and says Louisiana's campaign finance law is clear: campaign funds may not be used for personal use unrelated to the holding of public office. However, the law still begs the question of what counts as a campaign function and what doesn't?
'What counts and what doesn't? There's a long history of opinions coming out of the ethics board reflecting on this, but by and large, it's a pretty lose interpretation and you can spend it on a lot of things, including parties,' Scott said. As for dinners, Scott said, 'It depends on who's coming to the dinner.'
In April of 2012, a few months before the big America blow-out, Reed threw another party that he calls a campaign event. But Ursin and people who attended the party say it was really a housewarming party at Reed's newly-remodeled Covington condo. (See Reed Campaign Report)
Reed's campaign paid the band Vince Vance and the Valients $7,000 to perform in big tents rented from Cole's Rental World, something he also reported as expenditures on his campaign report.
A spokesman for the St Tammany Sheriff's Office confirmed that detail officers were paid to work the party at a 'private residence' that night. Reed also paid his son, Steven Reed's production company Globop more than $8,000 for a campaign function right around that same time.
Add it all up, and it looks like Reed spent at least $25,068.06 on that alleged campaign event. Robert Travis Scott with Louisiana's Public Affairs Research Council said big parties may not be what many people think their donations will be used for when they contribute to candidates' campaigns, but it can all be perfectly legal under Louisiana's campaign finance laws.
'If someone is having a big party, that's not necessarily restricted if you can demonstrate that it's to get people interested in you and to get people to donate money to you, then it's probably one of those things that you really can do,' Scott said.
'He threw a campaign party on his 65th birthday so he could have 3,000 people sing happy birthday to him,' Ursin said.
Reed's campaign reports show he did, in fact, throw another big fundraiser at the Castine center that day in 2011. Ursin admits she and her son were paid by the campaign to help with it for little to no work. Those payments are reflected in Reed's reports.
But by April of 2012, Ursin wasn't invited to the alleged housewarming party in 2012 because she and Reed were broken up.
Later that summer, Ursin says she and Reed had gotten back together, and they spent countless days and nights in the condo. They even traveled to eastern Europe together. But Ursin wasn't invited to the America fundraiser either.
'He said, no, my kids will be there and you don't need to go because of Shawn. And I was willing to concede to that, Ursin said.
Shawn is one of Reed's ex-wives. After a confrontation at a local drug store in 2011, Claire keyed Shawn's car.
'I did key her car. People think I'm crazy. I am here to tell you that was completely out of character for me. I was very, very upset at the time,' Ursin said.
Ursin pled guilty of simple criminal damage to property for it that same year and paid Shawn Reed
restitution to fix the damage. But the incident is why she agreed to stay away from the America fundraiser.
'Walter walked away with a lot more money than people know,' Ursin speculated.
'Walter, I don't feel good about this...'
Three days after the America event, Ursin says Reed invited her over for dinner.
'When he asked me over for dinner, he says, Claire, can you write like me? I'm like, no. I can't. You write left-handed, upside down,' she said.
Ursin claims Reed handed her a stack of about 40 checks upside down and asked her to sign his name on the back of them.
'I said, Walter, I don't feel good about this. And he said, just do it,' she continued, 'He said, 'Who else can do this for me?' And he's screaming at me at this point. So, I said, ok, ok. I'll do it.'
Ursin said she took a peek at them after Reed had put them in a drawer and took two of them to copy because she was concerned she had committed some sort of crime.
'I realized they were from the campaign party. I realized they, one of them just said Walter Reed and one of them was blank. So, they didn't have Walter Reed Campaign Fund written on the front of the check,' Ursin said.
One of those check copies shows a check written by a Covington man named Dwight Rucker. It's made out to Walter Reed, not the committee to elect Walter Reed.
When reached by phone as he traveled out of town on business last week, Rucker said he attended the fundraiser but thought it was a charity event, not a political fundraiser. He had heard former Gov. Edwin Edwards was supposed to be there.
WWL-TV investigative reporter Katie Moore asked, 'Would you have any other reason to write a check to Mr. Reed?'
'No,' Rucker replied. 'In fact, I don't know Walter Reed personally at all. In fact, when I found out the former governor was going to be there, I really wanted to meet him.'
Rucker said the check is definitely from his account and that it was likely payment to get into the fundraiser, but he doesn't remember why he may have made the check out to Walter Reed personally.
A disgruntled ex-girlfriend?
Ursin admitted to signing Reed's name on the back of it and said she kept a copy of it, but ultimately gave the original back to Reed. She doesn't know what happened to it from there.
Rucker said he closed the account six months ago, but couldn't remember whether it ever cleared his account.
Rucker's contribution doesn't appear anywhere on Reed's campaign finance reports.
'If somebody questions the whereabouts of these checks, he's gonna say my crazy ex girlfriend or current girlfriend or whatever I was at the moment, she stole those,' Ursin speculated.
Reed continues to deny requests for interviews, but in a statement to us about this story, his spokesman Morgan Stewart said, 'The veracity of this disgruntled ex-girlfriend as a source is extremely questionable. We deny her accusations categorically, and are shocked that respected media representatives continue to take her word over a person that has never been charged with an ethics violation or of breaking the law.'
In his emailed response to WWL-TV's questions, Stewart estimated attendance at the America fundraiser was 2,400 people. Documents subpoenaed by the FBI from the Castine Center show an estimated attendance of anywhere from 1,600 to 1,800.
On his campaign reports, Reed reported making $222,500 from the sale of fundraiser tickets in 2012. At 150 bucks a head, that's 1483 tickets sold.
If you use Reed's attendance estimate, which could be high given what the Castine Center documents estimated, that means Reed could have let hundreds of people in for free or some payments may be unaccounted for.
Reed's spokesman did say they would never turn away anyone who wanted to attend who couldn't
afford a ticket and that, 'Politicians in general want to talk to as many people as possible in order to earn more votes. This is true of Mr. Reed as well. Turning away a supporter or the friend of a supporter who could not afford a ticket was not in Mr. Reed's nature.'
In the end, Ursin said the night before she was supposed to Denver, she got a knock on the door from the FBI. Ursin said she has been cooperating with them since, but she wanted to get her story out for a reason.
'I'm a huge threat to Walter. They will try to hurt me any way they can. And maybe that's why I'm with you today. Because I wouldn't have put anything past them,' she said.
In all, it appears Reed spent $155,382 just on the America fundraiser alone, all from campaign funds. Scott says big parties may not be what many people think their donations will be used for when they contribute to candidates' campaign, but it can all be perfectly legal under Louisiana's campaign finance laws.