Former U.S. Senator Larry Craig asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Federal Election Commission for using campaign funds to pay for his legal defense, arguing that he was on official travel when he was arrested in a sex-sting operation.
Craig, 67, said in a filing today in federal court in Washington that he was allowed to use campaign funds to pay legal fees incurred from a 2007 arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because he was on the way to Washington for a session of Congress at the time. The travel triggered the U.S. Constitution’s clause immunizing federal lawmakers from arrest, according to the filing.
“Senator Craig was engaged in official, constitutionally mandated activity at the time of the incident,” Craig said in the filing.
Craig, an Idaho Republican, spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds in connection with his arrest, disorderly conduct guilty plea and subsequent efforts to withdraw that plea in Minnesota in 2007, the commission said in a lawsuit filed in June.
Craig was arrested in a bathroom at the airport on 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 FCC’s complaint.
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.
The commission has asked the court to make Craig pay back what he spent on his legal defense and to levy civil penalties against Craig and his campaign treasurer of no more than $6,500.
Julia Queen, a spokeswoman for the FEC, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The case is Federal Election Commission v. Craig for U.S. Senate, 1:12-cv-00958, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).