Former U.S. Senator Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, was sued by the Federal Election Commission over allegedly misusing more than $200,000 in campaign funds to pay for his personal legal defense.
Craig used the money in connection with his arrest, guilty plea and subsequent efforts to withdraw that plea in Minnesota in 2007, the commission said in a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Washington.
Craig was arrested in a bathroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport June 11, 2007, by an undercover policeman. He denied soliciting sex in the restroom, said he had done nothing wrong and that he wasn’t a homosexual.
Craig hired Washington-based Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan to serve as lead counsel in an effort to withdraw his guilty plea and Kelly & Jacobson, a Minnesota firm. He also retained a media relations firm to handle press inquiries about the incident, according to the court filing. The Craig for U.S. Senate Committee paid Sutherland, Asbill at least $139,952 for legal services on Craig’s behalf, while Kelly & Jacobson received about $77,032, the commission said in the filing.
“These disbursements converted the Craig committee’s funds to personal use because they were not expenditures made in connection with Mr. Craig’s campaign for federal office and were not ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duties as a senator,” the commission said in the filing.
The commission asked the court to make Craig pay back the money he spent on his personal legal defense and to levy civil penalties against Craig and his campaign treasurer of no more than $6,500.
A phone call to Craig’s Washington consulting firm, New West Strategies LLC, seeking comment on the lawsuit wasn’t immediately returned. Felice Wagner, a spokeswoman for Sutherland, Asbill, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail and voice message.
The case is Federal Election Commission v. Craig for U.S. Senate, 1:12-cv-00958, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).