- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
Federal judge to hear ex-Sen. Craig’s suit on use of campaign funds for solicitation-case legal fees
A hearing this week in federal court in Washington involving former Sen. Larry Craig, whose political career crashed after his 2007 arrest for soliciting sex in a bathroom at a Minneapolis airport, could have far-reaching ramifications on the future use by lawmakers of campaign cash to pay legal bills.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will hear arguments Wednesday on a motion by Mr. Craig’s attorneys to dismiss a lawsuit brought June 11 by the Federal Election Commission, which accuses the former Idaho Republican and his re-election committee of converting more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to pay for Mr. Craig’s personal legal fees.
The FEC lawsuit says Mr. Craig illegally used campaign funds to pay legal expenses after his June 2007 arrest at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, and efforts he later made to withdraw the plea.
The complaint said the Craig re-election committee disbursed more than $480,000 for legal fees and other expenses, including $213,000 to two law firms related to Mr. Craig’s efforts to withdraw his guilty plea.
The lawsuit said the legal expenses were not incurred in connection with Mr. Craig’s campaign for federal office or with his “ordinary and necessary duties” as a senator and, as a result, amounted to “impermissible personal use.”
But Mr. Craig’s lawyers argued that their client was “engaged in official Senate-sponsored travel” while in Minnesota and, as a result, was entitled to use campaign cash to pay his legal bills as other legally embattled lawmakers have done before. They also have cited previous FEC rulings — which they said were “conspicuously absent” from the new lawsuit — allowing the expenditure of campaign funds for legal fees in similar cases.
“Legal defense funds are another way for special interests to throw money to their friends to influence laws,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for the Washington-based watchdog group Public Citizen. “This money means a lot to members. This is something that lawmakers take very seriously.”
In the dismissal motion, Mr. Craig’s lawyers — Andrew D. Herman and Stanley M. Brand — noted that the FEC, in a 2007 advisory opinion, ruled that former Arizona Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe’s use of campaign funds to pay his legal fees was legal in a Justice Department investigation that focused on the his alleged behavior with male House pages during a 1996 trip.
The lawyers said the advisory opinion, passed by the FEC on a 4-0 vote, described the Grand Canyon trip as an “official Congressional visit” and the legal fees as “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duty as a House member.”
Although Judge Jackson will hear the arguments Wednesday, it is not clear when she might rule on it.
The FEC is seeking, among other things, an order that Mr. Craig repay the funds to Craig for U.S. Senate and a civil penalty against him and two other defendants, the Craig for U.S. Senate Committee and Kaye O’Riordan, the re-election committee’s treasurer. It said Mr. Craig was arrested “for purely personal conduct unrelated to his duties as a federal officeholder.”
Mr. Craig, who left office in 2008, is now a lobbyist with New West Strategies, a “strategic advocacy” firm with offices in Washington and Eagle, Idaho. He has denied any wrongdoing in his use of campaign cash for his legal fees.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
- With bombs away, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants make their play
- Medical-device company exec admits to bilking shareholders of $400M
- Justice Dept: Florida's disabled children unnecessarily put in nursing facilities
- Man gets 11 years in Philadelphia mob crackdown
- Eric Holder asks for respect from protesters of George Zimmerman verdict
Latest Blog Entries
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- House pushes through two-year Ryan-Murray budget deal
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Jane Fonda Foundation fails to make single contribution in 5 years: report
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- White House improvises again on patchy Obamacare rollout
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Chef Mary Moran discusses the food we eat, where it comes from and what it does for us.
An informed and often humorous take on the world of advertising, public relations and social media. 100% Pure. Not from concentrate.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow