Friday, August 3, 2012
Disgraced former Republican U.S. Senator Larry Craig cites tea room adventure as official duty
If you laughed at former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s excuse that his habit of sitting on toilets with a “wide stance” led to a vice squad officer mistaking him for a tea room queen five years ago, his latest defense could leave you hysterical.
It may well become a frequently-mentioned “LMAOROTF” remark on Facebook as this new development related to Craig’s arrest on solicitation of sex charges in an airport restroom in 2007 starts making the rounds. It seems the former three-term senator has filed legal papers claiming his visit to the bathroom -- where the police officer claimed the politician signaled for sex under a stall -- amounted to official Senate business.
Yes, you read that right.
Craig, the toe-tapping, shoe-nudging former ultra-conservative senator from Idaho who opposed LGBT equality, is being sued by the Federal Election Commission because he allegedly used $217,000 in campaign funds to pay his lawyers who represented him after his arrest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom during a sex sting in 2007. The Washington, D.C. law firm of Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan scooped up $139,952 from Craig in connection with the senator’s legal woes, and the Minnesota law firm of Kelly & Jacobson earned another $77,032 for their work.
Craig wound up entering a guilty plea to disorderly conduct, then told his family, his colleagues and the rest of the nation he was innocent when the national media picked up on it. The disgraced senator soon announced his plans to resign, but then he decided to finish his term. Craig did not run for re-election in 2008.
The FEC reportedly later attempted to negotiate a reimbursement from Craig for the funds that the agency’s regulators claim he illegally spent on legal bills. When he refused, they filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in June, seeking repayment of the legal fees and the assessment of fines.
The FEC suit claimed Craig’s legal bills that resulted from his adventures in a men’s restroom had nothing to do with his campaign, but Craig responded that going to the bathroom while traveling between his home state and Washington, D.C., fell under his reimbursable official duties. He cited a Senate rule that provides for reimbursement of transportation, lodging, meals and several other items.
In an effort to get the complaint dismissed, Craig and his lawyers have also cited a case involving former U.S. Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona who used campaign money in 2006 for a legal defense. The congressman, who was openly gay, came under fire in connection with a Grand Canyon rafting trip he took with two former male pages.
The FEC ruled that Kolbe’s legal expenses were legitimate because it was an official visit arranged by the National Park Service, and therefore part of his duties as a member of the House of Representatives.
It’s clear that Craig, who now has an energy consulting business with his former chief of staff, has no shame. Rather than just paying the money back to avoid further embarrassment, he has decided to fight the FEC in an effort to hang on to that money.
The late-night television pundits are bound to love it.
Still, I can sympathize with Craig on one point. Given how everything turned out for him, it probably is hard to justify paying $217,000 for a legal defense against a misdemeanor charge that resulted in you pleading guilty and losing your job. It may well be the most expensive public lewdness case ever recorded.