Ethics Committee Admonishes Craig on Bathroom Arrest

Posted February 13, 2008 at 6:56pm

The Senate Ethics Committee on Wednesday evening issued a formal rebuke to Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) in connection with his arrest last summer in an airport men’s room and subsequent guilty plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges. In a three-page “Public Letter of Admonition,” the six Senators who serve on the Ethics Committee said they accept Craig’s guilty plea as an accurate admission of guilt and question his attempts to reverse the charges once his arrest and plea deal were made public by Roll Call in late August 2007. But the committee was particularly harsh in its assessment that Craig should not have presented a U.S. Senate business card and said “What do you think about that?” to the police officer who arrested Craig in a Minneapolis airport men’s room and accused him of soliciting sex. “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 as a United States Senator to receive special and favorable treatment,” the Ethics Committee wrote. Craig was arrested in the airport on June 11, 2007. At the time, he denied to the arresting officer that he had been soliciting sex, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge two months later, apparently hoping that the news of his arrest would go undetected by the public and the media. But after Roll Call broke the story of the arrest and guilty plea, Craig sought to reverse the charges and enter a not guilty plea. “It appears you are attempting to withdraw your plea in significant part because your initial calculation that you could avoid public disclosure of, and adverse public reaction to, this matter by pleading guilty proved wrong,” the Senators wrote. “Even if an attempt to withdraw a guilty plea under the circumstances present in this case is a course that a defendant in the State of Minnesota may take, by the standards within this Committee’s jurisdiction it is a course that a United States Senator should not take. Your claims to the court, through counsel, to the effect that your guilty plea resulted from improper pressure or coercion, or that you did not, as a legal matter, know what you were doing when you pled guilty, do not appear credible.” The committee also questioned Craig’s use of campaign funds for his legal defense and for public relations work related to his legal case. No one answered the phone at Craig’s Capitol Hill office this evening. — Josh Kurtz