WASHINGTON - A federal judge on Thursday rejected the argument that Larry Craig's arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting fell under his official duties as a U.S. senator.
Craig had asserted that he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work, so therefore his defense attorneys could be paid with campaign money.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in her ruling that the charge against Craig didn't relate "to his conduct as a legislator, but only actions undertaken in the privacy and anonymity of a restroom stall." Jackson set a scheduling conference in the case for April 26.
The Gem State Republican was arrested by an undercover police officer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The officer said Craig tapped his feet and signaled under a stall divider that he wanted sex. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine, but after his arrest became public, he tried unsuccessfully to reverse his conviction.
The FEC allows campaign funds to be used for legal expenses that were caused by a candidate's campaign or officeholder duties, and determines that on a case-by-case basis. The commission sued Craig last year after concluding that his legal problems had nothing to do with his federal office. The FEC is seeking an order requiring Craig to return the money to his campaign, and is seeking fines of up to $6,500 against Craig and his campaign treasurer, Kaye O'Riordan.
"Senator Craig was arrested for, and pled guilty to, committing a criminal violation of Minnesota state law," Jackson wrote. "One does not need to be a United States congressman - or any sort of federal official - to be charged with this offense, and the arrest did not call into question his conduct as a legislator.
"Neither the charge nor the underlying conduct had anything to do with his performance of his official duties, so the legal expenses they generated were not incurred in connection with those duties."
In an email, Craig's lawyer, Andrew Herman, said, "We will assess the opinion and decide how to proceed after doing so."
In a letter that Craig's lawyers wrote to the Senate Ethics Committee in 2007, they described his arrest and conviction as "purely personal conduct unrelated to the performance of official Senate duties."