- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Senate Select Committee on Ethics said yesterday that Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, acted improperly in connection with a men’s room sex sting last year and had brought discredit on the Senate.

In a three-page letter to the senator, the ethics panel said Mr. Craig’s attempt to withdraw his guilty plea after his arrest at a Minneapolis airport was an effort to evade legal consequences of his own actions.

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Craig said he disagreed with the panel’s action.

“While I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the conclusions reached by the Senate Ethics Committee, from the outset I have encouraged the committee to act in a timely fashion and they have done so. I will continue to serve the people of Idaho,” he said.

The six members of the committee — three Democrats and three Republicans — told Mr. Craig they thought he “committed the offense to which you pled guilty” and that “you entered your plea knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently.”

Mr. Craig, a three-term Republican, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August after he was accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in June. Mr. Craig has said an undercover police officer misinterpreted his foot and hand movements as signals that he wanted sex.

After the matter became public, Mr. Craig tried to withdraw his plea. A judge in Minnesota refused, saying the plea “was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and … supported by the evidence.” The senator has appealed that ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The panel also admonished Mr. Craig for showing the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a U.S. senator. Mr. Craig has been reported to have told the officer at the time, “What do you think about that?”

The committee wrote, “You knew or should have known that a reasonable person in the position of the arresting officer could view your action and statement as an improper attempt by you to use your position and status … to receive special and favorable treatment.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat and chairman of the ethics panel, declined to comment.

A panel spokeswoman said the panel’s letter of admonition cannot be appealed.

The ethics panel took no further action against Mr. Craig.

Senate Republicans demanded the ethics probe after news broke of Mr. Craig’s conviction last summer. Mr. Craig first promised to resign Sept. 30, then reversed his decision. He now says he will stay in office until his term expires in January; he says he is not running for re-election.

The panel also said Mr. Craig should have received permission from the ethics panel before using campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Mr. Craig has spent more than $213,000 in campaign money for legal expenses and public relations work in the wake of his arrest and conviction last summer.

The committee said it had reached no conclusion about whether use of campaign funds was proper, but that “it is clear that you never sought the committee’s approval, as required,” to use the money for legal expenses.

Any future use of campaign money for legal bills will be seen as “demonstrating your continuing disregard of ethics requirements,” the panel wrote.


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