Ex-senator who pleaded guilty in gay sex sting loses appeal

Larry Craig. AP

Larry Craig. AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig improperly used campaign funds to pay for his legal defense after his arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The ruling upheld a lower court decision that said Craig must reimburse the government $197,535 and pay a civil penalty of $45,000 for violating federal election laws.

Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2007 after an undercover police officer said the lawmaker tapped his foot to signal under the bathroom stall that he wanted sex.

The senator quietly pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and paid a fine. But after news of the incident leaked, Craig insisted his actions were misconstrued and said he was not gay. He began a prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful legal fight to reverse his plea using money from campaign accounts.

Craig argued that those payments were permitted under Senate rules allowing reimbursements for official travel costs because he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the legal allegations against Craig “did not concern the senator’s campaign activities or official duties.”

“The legal fees he expended trying to withdraw his plea constituted personal use,” Chief Judge Merrick Garland said.

Craig retired from Congress in 2008 after serving 18 years in the Senate and 10 in the House. He now works as a lobbyist.

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