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Commentaries and editorials

Sen. Larry Craig Scolded
for 'Improper Conduct'

by Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2008

The Senate ethics panel criticizes his behavior during and after his arrest in an airport restroom in June.

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Select Committee on Ethics harshly criticized Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) on Wednesday for his actions during and after his arrest last summer in a men's restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

In a strongly worded "public letter of admonition," the panel of three Democrats and three Republicans told Craig that his behavior constituted "improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate."

Craig, who before the scandal was a leading voice on Western issues, was arrested in June by an undercover officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct; after the incident became public, he attempted to revoke his plea.

In what became a soap opera, Craig announced that he intended to resign his Senate seat for the good of his party, then changed his mind and decided to serve out his term. The move angered GOP colleagues and created awkwardness in the Capitol as he tried to go about his job. He has denied any wrongdoing and has said that he regrets his plea.

In response to the letter, Craig said he was disappointed by, and disagreed with, the panel's conclusions. "I will continue to serve the people of Idaho," he said in a statement.

A senator for 17 years, Craig, 62, has said he will not seek reelection this year.

After noting the circumstances of the arrest and Craig's voluntary guilty plea, the three-page letter criticized Craig for handing the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a senator and saying, "What do you think about that?"

"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 as a United States senator to receive special and favorable treatment," the letter said.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), also took Craig to task for attempting to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he did so after "your initial calculation that you could avoid public disclosure ... and adverse public reaction ... proved wrong."

The committee scoffed at Craig's claims that he did not know what he was doing when he pleaded guilty. That assertion, the letter said, does "not appear credible."

"We consider your attempt to withdraw your guilty plea to be an attempt to evade the legal consequences of an action freely undertaken by you -- that is, pleading guilty -- and as such to be conduct contrary to the ... code of ethics," the committee members wrote.

The code, according to the letter, requires "any person in government service, in this case a United States senator," to uphold the "Constitution, laws and legal regulations of the United States ... and never be a party to their evasion."

The committee also criticized Craig for using more than $213,000 in campaign funds to cover legal and public relations fees in connection with his fight to clear his name without seeking the panel's approval, as required by Senate ethics rules.

The letter concluded the committee's review and spared Craig the additional humiliation of public hearings, which had been threatened. Admonition is a form of punishment that, unlike expulsion or censure, does not require a vote by the full Senate.

Related Pages:
Larry Craig's True Crimes Against Nature by Lee Patton,, 9/25/7

Richard Simon
Sen. Larry Craig Scolded for 'Improper Conduct'
Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2008

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