Federal campaign regulators brought the hammer down on disgraced former Sen. Larry Craig on Monday, accusing him of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash to pay for his legal defense following an arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom sex sting.
The Federal Election Commission filed a federal lawsuit against Craig, who now works as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., asking a judge to order the former lawmaker to pay back his campaign committee more than $200,000 and stop him from raiding the committee for his own personal use.
Craig did not return a message left at his lobbying firm.
The case stems from the Idaho Republican’s embarrassing 2007 arrest by an undercover cop in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom stall. The cop said Craig made sexual advances toward him by tapping his feet under the stall divider.
The senator quietly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct three months later. But after his case hit the media, Craig reversed himself and hired a team of attorneys to get his guilty plea thrown out.
On Monday, the FEC alleged that Craig used campaign donations from supporters as his own personal piggy bank to to try to reverse his plea. The commission said he paid $139,952 to the Washington, D.C. law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and another $77,032 to the Minneapolis firm of Kelly & Jacobson.
“These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for any ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in his connection with his duties as Senator,” FEC lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
The commission also named Kaye O’Riordan, Craig’s campaign treasurer, as a defendant. Craig finished out his term and retired from the Senate in January 2009, but his campaign committee remains.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com