Larry Craig

Craig has spent $201,420 in campaign cash on his defense

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Larry Craig has spent more than $200,000 so far on lawyers to clear his name of a misdemeanor guilty plea, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The Idaho Republican spent $174,738 on legal help in the final three months of 2007, bringing his total to $201,420. That includes $53,608 for Stan Brand, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who is handling the Senate Ethics Committee investigation into Craig's conduct last summer, when he was arrested in a sex sting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

In the final three months of the year, Craig spent $99,095 of his campaign money with Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan, the Washington law firm that's home to Billy Martin, the lead lawyer in Craig's effort to overturn his guilty plea to disorderly conduct in connection with the sting. Craig also spent $22,032 with Kelly and Jacobson, the Minneapolis law firm assisting Martin with the appeal.

Martin's spokeswoman, Judy Smith, would not comment Friday on the FEC filing, but did say appeals are "very, very expensive." Brand did not return a phone call from the Statesman. Craig's office has refused since Sept. 19 to answer questions from the newspaper.

The FEC generally allows lawmakers to use money from their campaign accounts to pay their legal expenses, as long as the bills stem from actions they took as officeholders.

Craig's overall legal tab in connection with his arrest and its fallout totals $201,420, according to his two most recent FEC filings. Most of that money has gone toward his long-shot appeal of his guilty plea, which is pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

In June, an undercover officer arrested Craig in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport as part of an investigation into complaints of sex acts in the restrooms. The investigator said that Craig tapped his feet and ran his hand under the stall - signals the officer interpreted as expressing interest in sex. Craig mailed in his guilty plea Aug. 1, without ever consulting a lawyer.

The news of Craig's arrest didn't break until Aug. 27. Less than a week later, Craig called a news conference to say he intended to resign. But he changed his mind and said he would stay in the Senate through the end of his term, saying he wanted to clear his name by appealing his guilty plea and fighting the ethics investigation.

It is less apparent what sort of legal work Brand has done for Craig on the ethics investigation. The Senate Ethics Committee will not disclose the status of Craig's case, and the financial records do not offer those details.

The committee's members did release an end-of-the-year report Thursday, though, and in it said that it had five ethics investigations from 2007 that it has carried over into 2008. The committee's report did not disclose which senators remain under investigation. There is no indication other than Brand's legal bills that the committee has made any progress on Craig's investigation.

Craig's FEC report shows that with just under a year left to go in office, he still has $289,505 remaining in his campaign account.

He took in three donations the last three months of 2007:

$500 from businessman Robert Karr of Arco.

$2,500 from the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Political Action Committee.

$11,645 from a fundraising committee set up to help GOP senators who face re-election this year. That money was pledged to Craig at a Republican fundraiser in April, although he and other senators did not receive it until this fall.

Erika Bolstad: (202) 383-6104