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Opening Arguments

Billion dollar baby

This story just astonishes me: "Ex-San Diego mayor who gambled away $1 billion remorseful"

Maureen O'Connor was the first female mayor of San Diego. But when she left public life, she spent countless hours seated in front of video-poker machines, authorities said.

Over a nine-year period, she wagered an estimated $1 billion, including millions from a charity set up by her late husband, who founded Jack in the Box.

That was the portrait that emerged in court Thursday as the frail former mayor tearfully acknowledged she skimmed more than $2 million from a charity founded by her late husband, Robert O. Peterson.

O'Connor, 66, admitted in a plea deal that she had a gambling addiction and is nearly destitute. Her lawyer, prominent defense attorney Eugene Iredale, suggested that a brain tumor may have impaired her reasoning; he gave reporters copies of her brain scan from a 2011 surgery.

That headline is more than a little misleading, however. $1 billion was the total amount she wagered in a nine-year period, not the amount she lost. Further down in the story we read that her net loss was about $13 million. Still, that's one powerful addiction brain tumor bad habit. Go ahead, Indiana lawmakers, give more tax breaks to our casinos so they can compete with all the new casinos in surounding states and our residents don't fall behind our neighbors in the depravity sweepstakes.

Think the fact she was a politician contributed to her gambling problem? Those folks get used to the idea that money is just a number you subtract from somebody else's bank account to use however you wish. Taxpayers' millions for foolish government programs or a charity's millions to feed your habit -- what's the difference?

Boy, did I wake up on the cynic's side of the bed today or what?