Former U.S. Senator Larry Craig lost a bid to throw out a Federal Election Commission lawsuit claiming he improperly used campaign funds for lawyers after he was arrested in an airport sex sting.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected Craig’s contention that the legal fees were “ordinary and necessary” expenses incurred in connection with official duties he was performing at the time of his arrest for soliciting sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The FEC made a valid claim that Craig violated federal campaign law, she said.
“Neither the charge nor the underlying conduct had anything to do with his performance of his official duties, so the legal expenses they generated were not incurred in connection with those duties,” Jackson wrote in her ruling today.
Craig, an Idaho Republican, spent about $200,000 of campaign funds in connection with his arrest, guilty plea to disorderly conduct and subsequent efforts to withdraw the plea in Minnesota, the commission said in a lawsuit filed in June.
Craig, 67, was arrested at the airport on June 11, 2007, by an undercover policeman. He denied soliciting sex in the restroom, saying he had done nothing wrong.
Andrew Herman, a lawyer for Craig, said he was still reviewing the order and couldn’t comment on it.
Craig hired Washington-based Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan to serve as lead counsel in an effort to withdraw his plea and Kelly & Jacobson, a Minnesota firm. He also retained a media relations firm to handle press inquiries about the incident, according to the FEC’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 lawsuit.
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 as much as $6,500.
During a March 11 hearing, Herman argued that if something happens that results in a civil or criminal investigation in course of regular activities while traveling on official business, such as walking, eating or using the restroom, the resulting legal fees could be paid with campaign money.
He pointed to an FEC opinion allowing former Representative Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican, to use campaign funds to cover legal fees associated with an investigation into improper behavior with former congressional pages while on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
The case is Federal Election Commission v. Craig for U.S. Senate, 1:12-cv-00958, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).