Ex-Idaho Sen. Larry Craig loses appeal on funds use after bathroom incident

WASHINGTON — Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig must pay $242,533 to the Treasury Department for using campaign money on legal representation in the aftermath of his 2007 guilty plea after a Minnesota airport bathroom sex sting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the argument from Craig’s lawyers that the legal costs are no longer personal expenses when an arrest becomes politicized and an opponent uses the arrest for political reasons.

Craig spent about $200,000 in campaign funds on legal fees to try to undo the plea.

“The allegations that gave rise to his guilty plea were the misdemeanor charges for disorderly conduct and interference with privacy that the State of Minnesota filed against him,” the D.C. Circuit opinion says. “Because those allegations did not concern the Senator’s campaign activities or official duties, the legal fees he expended trying to withdraw his plea constituted ‘personal use.’”

The decision upholds a lower court ruling that Craig pay $242,533 to the Treasury Department — $197,533 from the Craig Committee and a $45,000 penalty — for using campaign money for legal representation on the disorderly conduct charge.

Craig’s airport arrest in June 2007 was first reported by Roll Call more than two weeks after his guilty plea in the case. A Republican, Craig eventually decided not to seek reelection in 2008 and left the Senate at the end of his third term.

Craig was arrested by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of sexual activity in the bathroom after what the officer described as sexual advances made by Craig from an adjoining stall. Craig called the incident a misunderstanding and later said he shouldn’t have pleaded guilty.

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