Defending a 'Wide Stance' Requires a Thick Wallet

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Add this to the list of indignities Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has suffered since getting busted in an airport restroom last June: He now has to pay his legal dream team out of his own pocket.

Per the Senate ethics committee's Feb. 13 "admonition" of him for his guilty plea to disorderly conduct charges, Craig has not paid any of his top-flight lawyers from his campaign committee since early February. The last legal payment from Craig for U.S. Senate, in the form of an $80,695 check, went out on Feb. 3 to Billy Martin's firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.

According to reports his campaign committee filed with the Federal Election Commission, that put Craig's total legal tab at more than $407,000 since he was arrested June 11 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in an undercover sting designed to root out lewd behavior.

But Craig never sought permission from the ethics committee to use his campaign funds to pay Martin and Stan Brand, the lawyer who helped him handle the matter before the committee.

The panel's three-page letter concluded that Craig had engaged in "improper conduct which has reflected discreditably on the Senate." It warned him against any future legal expenses because the senator's arrest may not have "occurred in connection with your official duties."

Craig's office declined to comment. Brand told this column yesterday that Craig is now in "full compliance" with the ethics admonishment. "I'm paid in full," Brand added, noting that his work for Craig concluded once the committee finished its deliberations.

But Craig is continuing his appeal of a Minnesota court ruling that upheld his guilty plea, and he is continuing to rack up legal bills with Martin's firm. He is left to fight this uphill battle with his own finances -- which are incredibly meager.

Aside from a pair of retirement accounts, Craig has just one other account to draw from. It's with the Senate's federal credit union and contains between $50,000 and $100,000, according to a financial disclosure report filed with the Senate.

He also could tap his wife's personal account with the credit union -- worth somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 -- but we're guessing Mrs. Craig may not be willing to foot the legal bills for her husband's "wide stance."

PAC Men and Women

Leadership PACs aren't just for leaders anymore.

In a first-of-its-kind study, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has compiled a nearly comprehensive list of political action committees associated with lawmakers.

More than half the House now boasts of having a PAC, in addition to the campaign committees that members use to actually run for office.

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