Home

Judge Rules Larry Craig Must Repay Campaign Funds Used in Bathroom Scandal

Craig talks to reporters in 2007 after the bathroom sex scandal was revealed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Larry Craig's 2007 arrest  in a Minnesota airport bathroom sex sting continues to cost the former senator.  

A federal judge in the District of Columbia has ordered the Idaho Republican to pay $242,535 to the Department of the Treasury. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Craig must repay $197,533 in campaign funds from the Craig Committee, which functioned as "little more than an alter-ego for Senator Craig himself," plus a $45,000 fine.  

Federal Election Commission officials filed the complaint against Craig in 2012, alleging he illegally converted campaign money for personal use because the legal expenditures were not “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.”  

Craig's attempts to dismiss the lawsuit were unsuccessful . Jackson agreed with the FEC, after reviewing a line-by-line analysis of Craig's legal invoices.  

Craig's legal troubles began seven years ago, on June 11, 2007. Craig was arrested by a plainclothes police officer who was investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He was charged with disturbing the peace and interference with privacy, and initially pled guilty to the misdemeanor.  

Craig quietly paid more than $500 in fines and fees, while a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.  

On Sept. 1, after the arrest became the subject of national media attention, Craig announced he would be resigning, effective Sept. 30. Ten days later he filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea.  

Meanwhile, the Senate Ethics Committee began investigating the incident. Craig then decided to ride out his term, instead of resigning, in an effort to clear his name.  

In February 2008, the ethics panel admonished Craig for the spending.  Five months later, the committee authorized Craig to establish a legal expense trust fund to pay for court expenses, but warned any further use of campaign funds for the legal battle without the committee's approval would constitute conduct demonstrating his "continued disregard of ethics requirements."  

A complaint was filed with the FEC in November 2008, alleging Craig had spent more than $213,000 in connection with attempts to withdraw his guilty plea. The FEC wanted the senator to pay nearly $217,000, plus $70,000 each in fines for both Craig and his committee.  

Craig's lawyers argued the campaign money was being spent in "good faith," based on guidance from counsel.  

Jackson ruled in favor of the FEC. However, she noted that certain legal expenses related to media relations or responding to ethics inquiries are partially or fully payable with campaign funds, according to precedent. She settled on the $45,000 fine as an amount "necessary and appropriate to punish defendants' misconduct and to deter any future misconduct by others."  

Related Story: Craig Arrested, Pleads Guilty Following Incident in Airport Restroom Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Topics: ethics