Former Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) is attempting to have his infamous public bathroom arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer reclassified as having occurred on an official Senate business trip. According to the Fox News website, the disgraced lawmaker is trying to avoid a fine from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for misuse of electoral funds in his legal defense.
The FEC sued Craig and his treasurer Kaye O’Riordan in June, alleging that Craig used some $217,000 in campaign funds for personal use, paying it to the attorneys who managed to arrange a plea deal stemming from the his arrest on July 17, 2007 in a bathroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Thanks to his legal team, charges of lewd conduct against Craig were dropped in favor of a guilty plea to charges of disorderly conduct.
Craig and his attorneys argue that the money was used neither for personal use nor campaign use, but for reimbursable travel expenses incurred while traveling home from the Senate. He cited a Senate provision that sanctions repayment to senators all per diem expenses related to travel to and from Washington, including meals, lodging, cleaning and pressing of business clothes and, apparently, any fees related to bathroom use.
A member of Craig’s defense team, D.C. attorney Andrew Herman, wrote, “Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom while on official travel.”
While a novel defense, the tactic has some historical precedent. In documents filed on Thursday, the Craig team cited the case of former Arizona Republican Congressman Rep. Jim Kolbe, who dipped into his own campaign funds to defend himself against charges of improper sexual conduct with a pair of teenage Congressional pages.
Kolbe took the two boys on a rafting trip to the Grand Canyon. Because park officials were present on the trip and because it was considered an official Senate outing, Kolbe’s lawyers were able to successfully beat back charges by the Department of Justice. The investigation against Kolbe was forced to conclude that the congressman’s legal expenses were “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duty as a House member.”
Craig’s lawyers argue that his case should be considered similarly.