Congressman vows to continue serving his constituency despite criticism that he acted improperly during a men’s room sting
WASHINGTON The Senate Ethics Committee said Wednesday, Feb. 13, that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig acted improperly in connection with a men’s room sex sting last year and had brought discredit on the Senate.
In a letter to the Republican senator, the ethics panel said Craig’s attempt to withdraw his guilty plea after his arrest at a Minneapolis airport was an effort to evade legal consequences of his own actions.
Craig’s actions constitute "improper conduct which has reflected discreditably on the Senate," the letter said.
In an e-mailed statement, Craig told The Associated Press he disagreed with the ethics panel’s action.
"While I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the conclusions reached by the Senate Ethics Committee, from the outset I have encouraged the committee to act in a timely fashion and they have done so. I will continue to serve the people of Idaho," he said.
The six members of the committee – three Democrats and three Republicans told Craig they believed he "committed the offense to which you pled guilty" and that "you entered your plea knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently."
The panel said Craig only tried to remove his guilty plea after his attempts to avoid public disclosure had failed.
"Your claims to the court to the effect that your guilty plea resulted from improper pressure or coercion, or that you did not, as a legal matter, know what you were doing when you pled guilty do not appear credible," the letter said.
The panel also said Craig should have received permission from the ethics panel before using campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Craig, who is not running for re-election, has spent more than $213,000 in campaign money for legal expense and public relations work in the wake of his arrest and conviction last summer.
The committee said it had reached no conclusion about whether use of campaign funds was proper, but it said "it is clear that you never sought the committee’s approval, as required," to use the money for legal expenses.
Any future use of campaign money for legal bills will be seen as "demonstrating your continuing disregard of ethics requirements," the ethics committee wrote in its three-page letter.
The panel also admonished Craig for showing the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a U.S. senator. Craig has been reported to have told the officer at the time, "What do you think about that?"
The committee wrote, "You knew or should have known that a reasonable person in the position of the arresting officer could view your action and statement as an improper attempt by you to use your position and status … to receive special and favorable treatment."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the ethics panel, declined to comment. A spokeswoman said the panel’s letter of admonition cannot be appealed.
The ethics panel took no further action against Craig.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2008