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Missouri ex-House speaker fined $47K for alleged campaign finance violations

FILE - Missouri House Speaker John Diehl pauses before stepping down from the dais after addressing the body for the final time, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Jefferson City, Mo. Diehl has been fined $47,000 for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws, according to records released Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A disgraced former Missouri House speaker has been fined $47,000 for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws, according to records released Tuesday.

The Missouri Ethics Commission, which handles ethics violations by politicians, said it uncovered the alleged misconduct during an audit of Republican John Diehl's campaign last year.

Voters elected Diehl to the state House in 2008 to represent suburban St. Louis, and he briefly served as the powerful House speaker in 2015. He resigned in May 2015 after admitting to sending sexually explicit messages to a House intern.

The Ethics Commission found that Diehl opened a bank account in July 2015 where he kept unreported campaign money. The audit discovered that Diehl had roughly $52,000 more in campaign funds than what he had reported.

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Diehl used campaign money to make a nearly $7,000 credit card payment for personal expenses in 2020, the commission found. He has since repaid the funds to his campaign. The commission also found Diehl donated close to $35,000 in 2019 and 2020 without publicly reporting those gifts.

Diehl's lawyer, Marc Ellinger, described the issues as “minor paperwork errors.”

“Over the course of many, many years, millions of dollars and thousands of transactions, there was a small number of them that there were some errors made in reporting," Ellinger said. “We cleaned all those up, and we're trying to put this all behind us.”

Although he was fined $47,000, Diehl only owes about $10,000 if he pays within the next month and a half. He will owe the full $47,000 if he violates campaign finance laws in the next two years.