A federal judge has ordered former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig to pay $242,535 for misuse of campaign funds.
In a detailed 41-page decision issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson concluded that Craig and his campaign committee violated federal campaign laws when they converted campaign funds to pay for legal expenses.
The legal expenses were for Craig’s effort to withdraw a guilty plea in a politically embarrassing misdemeanor case arising out of Craig’s actions at a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men’s room in 2007. After pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, Craig sought to back out of the plea.
Jackson concluded that Craig “unlawfully converted” $197,535 in campaign funds, slightly less than the Federal Election Commission had charged. She ordered Craig to repay that, in addition to a $45,000 fine, which was less than the fine proposed by the FEC.
“A penalty would deter not only future misconduct by these defendants, but also the misappropriation of campaign funds by others,” Jackson reasoned.
Although politicians can, and do, use campaign funds for legal expenses, the FEC successfully argued that Craig’s legal fees were not “made in connection with Mr. Craig’s campaign for federal office and were not ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duties as a Senator.”
Records made available during the litigation revealed the extent of Craig’s self-preservation efforts, which included hiring crisis p.r. manager Judy Smith, the inspiration for the main character in the television show “Scandal.”