Former Senator Larry Craig is back in the news. The former Idaho Senator was once a critic of those who wanted to live off the government or bureaucrats seeking more money from federal coffers. However, his lawyers are in court this week defending his use of $217,000 in campaign funds to pay for criminal defense after he was arrested in a Minneapolis airport bathroom soliciting sex. He insisted that he was still doing on public business at the time. Of course, the police alleged it was public business of a different kind, but Craig says that such travel was part of Senate business because he was traveling between Washington and Idaho on July 11, 2007.
The Federal Election Commission has sued Craig and argues that this is not what donors had in mind when they gave to his campaign. Craig does not claim it was part of a campaign but rather part of his role as a member of the Senate. He notes that the U.S. Senate rules allow for reimbursement for per diem expenses that include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing — and bathrooms. His lawyer argues that “[n]ot only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom while on official travel.”
Craig’s claim brings to mind the recent case discussed on this blog of the woman who was able to collect worker’s compensation when injured in a sexual tryst in a hotel after the court found that it was a natural part of traveling on business.
I can understand the argument up to a point, but it is the criminality involved in the Craig trip that produces the logical disconnect. Under this logic, Craig could have robbed the Starbucks at the airport and used campaign funds in his defense. In the same fashion, there remains a difference between kissing babies and child molestation as part of a political trip. The former is a standard of politicians while the latter is a felony. Likewise, there is a difference between “pressing the flesh with voters” and . . . well you get the idea.
Craig has created a consulting firm called New West Strategies with his former chief of staff, Mike Ware, that works on energy issues. His bio wisely omits the reason for his leaving the Senate. Instead it heralds how “as a westerner and former rancher, he has gained a national reputation as a stalwart against environmental extremism.” Well, that is not quite the national and international reputation that most people would cite for Larry Craig.
Source: USA Today