Remember Larry Craig, the Idaho Senator who was arrested for trying to pick up a cop in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, entered a guilty plea and then spent thousands of dollars keeping the scandal in the news by trying to convince the courts that he just has a "wide stance" when he urinates in a totally heterosexual manner in airport restrooms?
To pay for lawyers, Craig converted $217,000 of his campaign fund to personal use, a maneuver the Federal Election Commission took issue with in June, when they sued Craig, claiming his legal fees had no connection to his campaign for federal office. Craig's response: screwing with people is the official business of the U.S. Senate, he just took that charge less figuratively than most…
Craig counters that money tied to his airport bathroom trip was for neither personal use nor his campaign, but fell under his official, reimbursable duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and the nation's capital for work.
He cites a U.S. Senate rule in which reimbursable per diem expenses include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing — and bathrooms.
"Not 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," wrote Andrew Herman, Craig's lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Of course, most Americans manage to use the bathroom without incurring over $200,000 in legal expenses, but Craig seems to have legal precedent on his side. When Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona was investigated by the Department of Justice for a rafting trip he took with two male pages, the FEC concluded that Kolbe's legal expenses were an "ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duty as a House member."
That is a very wide stance on the responsibilities of elected officials, but law's the law.
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Tags: FEC, Larry Craig