Craig once helped boot GOP senator for sexual harassment
Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday August 28, 2007

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Ethics watchdog calling for similar investigation of claims Craig solicited officer

When the ethics committee voted to boot Bob Packwood from the Senate for lewd sexual harassment in 1995, Sen. Larry Craig lamented the difficult decision, but called it "the right one."

After Packwood resigned the next day, Craig, then a member of the Senate ethics committee, shared a tearful embrace with his former colleague.

"One particularly poignant moment came during an exchange between Packwood and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, a member of the Ethics panel," Edwin Chen reported in the Los Angeles Times Sept. 8, 1995. "Afterward, they shook hands and hugged one another. Then Craig began sobbing and quickly strode into the GOP cloakroom, his hands covering his face."

"It was not an easy decision to vote to expel a colleague from the Senate, but it was the right one," Craig said of the ethic's committee's sanction related to charges that Packwood made 18 "unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances" against women.

Now an independent watchdog wants the ethics committee to begin an investigation that could see the Idaho Republican face a similar fate. The group wants a formal investigation of reports reports that Craig tried to solicit anonymous sex in an airport bathroom.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington charges the three-term senator's alleged conduct reflects poorly on the august chamber.

CREW filed a complaint with the Senate ethics committee calling for an investigation of Craig after Roll Call reported that he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"The Senate Select Committee on Ethics should immediately commence an investigation into Sen. Craig’s conduct," Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said in a statement. "If pleading guilty to charges stemming from an attempt to solicit an undercover officer in a public restroom is not conduct that reflects poorly upon the Senate, what is?"

It is unclear whether the committee will begin an investigation. An ethics committee spokesman did not immediately return RAW STORY's calls seeking comment.

In its formal complaint, CREW notes that the ethics committee has previously disciplined members for engaging in improper conduct that reflects upon the Senate.

"In 1995, the Committee recommended that Senator Bob Packwood be expelled for repeated sexual misconduct," Sloan writes in a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the ethics committee, and its vice chair, Sen. John Cornyn.

The committee also has the option to formally reprimand a senator, without officially sanctioning him or her.

"Therefore, even if the Committee is not persuaded that Senator Craig's conduct reaches the level of improper conduct -- though given the circumstances it appears obvious that it does -- at the very least, the Committee should issue a public statement criticizing the Senator's conduct," Sloan wrote in CREW's complaint to the committee.

Craig was arrested June 8 by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men's public restroom. The officer reported that Craig made "a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct," touched the officer's foot with his own and attempted to reach his hand under the stall door, all while other men "appeared to use the restroom for its intended use," Roll Call reported.

After pleading guilty earlier this month to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, Craig paid a $500 fine and had a 10-day jail sentence stayed. He later said the Aug. 8 plea was a mistake and denied any wrongdoing.

The Minneapolis encounter apparently was not Craig's first attempt at soliciting sex in public restrooms. According to Mike Rogers' report at blogActive last year, which claimed Craig was gay, Craig attempted to solicit sex in a bathroom at Union Station. His office at the time denied the report, and he did not face criminal charges related to the previous allegations.