Federal Election Commission lawyers urged a federal judge not to heed U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s contention that regulators are being too hard on him — and to force him to pay nearly $360,000 in fines and restitution for tapping campaign accounts for his legal defense following his 2007 arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting. The FEC, which announced its latest legal filing Friday, says the Idaho Republican ignored the U.S. Senate’s own warnings not to spend the money. Craig also has acknowledged the campaign didn’t seek out FEC guidance on whether he should spend the money or not because he was worried it would tell him not to do it, its lawyers wrote.
Craig and his campaign “ignored admonitory language in FEC guidance indicating their spending would be illegal, and they now admit that they did not ask for their own advisory opinion because they were concerned the commission might say no,” said FEC attorney Kevin Hancock in the 43-page filing. “Instead, defendants spent the campaign funds, and they continued even after the Senate Ethics Committee warned them they were likely violating” the Federal Election Campaign Act. On Friday, FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram declined further comment.
Now, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has several options, including ruling on the FEC’s demand Craig pay restitution of $216,000 to his campaign fund and fines of $140,000, or scheduling a courtroom hearing for further arguments.
This battle has endured more than a year, as the commission seeks to force Craig to repay his campaign. Negotiations failed, and the two sides are entrenched.