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FEC: Ex-senator Larry Craig must pay $140K fine

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 7:57 p.m.

BOISE — Federal election regulators want former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig to pay $140,000 in fines and return nearly $217,000 from his campaign, arguing that he misused the money to fund his legal defense for his 2007 arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting.

The Federal Election Commission proposed the penalties this week in filings to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. In March, Jackson refused to dismiss the FEC's lawsuit against Craig alleging he illegally tapped campaign funds.

The Idaho Republican has been fighting the FEC's demands for more than a year. He has argued that his stop at the airport bathroom in Minneapolis fell under his official duties as a senator because he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work; therefore, the legal fees could be paid with campaign cash.

The FEC argues that Craig unjustly enriched himself by siphoning money from his campaign, rather than his personal bank accounts, to pay for lawyers in the case. Misusing campaign money for an illegitimate purpose is not unlike fraud, commission lawyers wrote.

Craig should be “required to pay a substantial civil penalty to punish this violation and deter others,” wrote Kevin P. Hancock, the FEC's lawyer.

Craig didn't return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

The senator was arrested on June 11, 2007, by an undercover police officer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The officer said Craig tapped his foot and signaled under a stall divider that he wanted sex.

Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine. Once his arrest became public, Craig tried unsuccessfully to reverse his conviction and racked up substantial legal fees that he satisfied by tapping his campaign accounts.

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