Sen. Craig soliciting donations for Fund for Justice in effort to reverse guilty plea

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comSeptember 19, 2008 

Sen. Larry Craig says the Senate Ethics Committee has cleared him to form a legal expense fund to back his year-long effort to reverse his 2007 guilty plea for disorderly conduct.

Craig calls the new fundraising committee the Fund for Justice, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Craig told CQ on Thursday that he's soliciting donations, "I'm working at it now," said the Idaho Republican who is retiring in January after 28 years in Congress.

In February, the Ethics Committee said Craig broke a Senate rule by failing to seek the committee's permission before spending about $213,000 in leftover campaign money to try to overturn his plea and clear his name. The unanimous committee also found that Craig's behavior before and after his June 2007 arrest in a gay-sex sting in a Minnesota airport men's room was "improper conduct" reflecting poorly on the Senate.

Craig tried to "evade legal consequences" for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge by trying to keep the arrest secret and attempting to withdraw his plea only after it became public, the bipartisan committee wrote on Feb. 13.

Following that admonishment, Craig stopped draining his campaign fund. Now, he is free to raise funds for his legal challenge.

Last week, Craig's lawyers argued before the Minnesota Court of Appeals that he should be allowed to withdraw his plea. A decision is expected before year's end. Whatever the court decides, the case could be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Disclosure of who has contributed to the new fund through Sept. 30 will come Oct. 15, when Craig will be required to file his first quarterly report detailing the activity of the Fund for Justice.

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