Larry Craig: I Was On “Official Business” When I Was Caught In That Bathroom

Though he left the Senate years ago, former Idaho Senator Larry Craig is still being pursued by the Federal Election Commission for using campaign funds to pay for the legal defense after being arrested for suspicion of lewd conduct in a bathroom at the Minneaapolis-St. Paul airport. In his defense to the FEC claims, Craig is now arguing to the Court that he was on “official business” when he was arrested and Constitutionally immune from arrest:

WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Federal Election Commission for using campaign funds to pay for his legal defense, arguing that he was on official travel when he was arrested in a sex-sting operation.

Craig, 67, said in a filing in federal court in Washington on Thursday that he was allowed to use campaign funds to pay legal fees incurred from a 2007 arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because he was on the way to Washington for a session of Congress. The travel triggered the Constitution’s clause immunizing federal lawmakers from arrest, according to the filing.

Senator Craig was engaged in official, constitutionally mandated activity at the time of the incident,” Craig said in the filing.

Craig spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds in connection with his arrest, disorderly conduct guilty plea and subsequent efforts to withdraw that plea in Minnesota in 2007, the commission said in a lawsuit filed in June.

Craig’s lawyers claim they have precedent:

In documents supporting his bid to have the complaint dismissed, Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who tapped campaign money in 2006 to defend himself after allegations of improper behavior emerged against him following a Grand Canyon rafting trip with two former male pages.

The trip by Kolbe, the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, was an official visit with support provided by the National Park Service.

The FEC concluded that Kolbe’s use of the campaign money to pay legal expenses associated with a Department of Justice inquiry regarding the trip were “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duty as a House member.”

Craig’s lawyer argues that his airport bathroom visit, made while traveling back to Washington, D.C., from his home state, should be seen similarly – and the FEC complaint dismissed with prejudice.

“Simply put, no principled distinction can be drawn between the Kolbe matter and this case,” Herman contends. “Sen. Craig’s legal expenses arose during official Senate travel, an activity that was part of his constitutionally enumerated duties as a holder of federal office.”

Craig never raised this issue, which is based on the provision in Article I, Section 6 that provides Members of Congress with immunity from arrest “during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same.” As for the Kolbe precedent, I would have thought Craig’s attorneys could have come up with a less, well, embarrassing example.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    In documents supporting his bid to have the complaint dismissed, Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who tapped campaign money in 2006 to defend himself after allegations of improper behavior emerged against him following a Grand Canyon rafting trip with two former male pages.

    Five years later … this stuff just goes on forever.

    Also, this is yet another example of why fiction is obsolete. You can’t make anything up any more.

  2. James in LA says:

    Denial makes children say the darndest things…

  3. James Joyner says:

    I just don’t know the law on this. Clearly, he can use campaign funds for traveling back to DC for a vote. But how is conducting illegal activity “official business”? By that standard, John Edwards’ covering up his affair was a legit campaign expense.

  4. Ozarkhillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    But how is conducting illegal activity “official business”? By that standard, John Edwards’ covering up his affair was a legit campaign expense.

    Golden Rule? Meet James. James? Meet golden rule.

    James? I laugh at your naivete. (You have laughed at mine…. my turn now.)