Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pay up, Senator Craig

    When donors contribute to political campaigns, they think they will be supporting someone’s quest to get elected to public office. It doesn’t occur to most people that they may be contributing to anything else. And they shouldn’t be.
    The Federal Election Commission was set up to make sure citizens aren’t misled and that candidates don’t abuse the election process. That’s why it’s going after former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho.
    The disgraced senator used $217,000 in campaign contributions to fund his legal defense after he pleaded guilty to soliciting sex in a Minneapolis men’s bathroom in 2007.
    The FEC noticed. It wants Craig to pay the money back to his campaign coffers and to pay a $140,000 fine for using them illegally. He’s fought the FEC over this for a year, and a U.S. District Court judge recently refused to dismiss the FEC’s lawsuit that was filed to recoup the money.
    The FEC wants half the fine levied on Craig personally and half on the campaign. His lawyers maintain that his presence in the Minneapolis airport and bathroom stop were part of his official duties as a senator and say the defense costs were a legitimate expense.
    Craig’s argument would be laughable if not for the harm it would inflict on the faith of citizens in the election system. Craig pleaded guilty and it was his choice to try to have his plea overturned and to spend donors’ money to do so.
    The FEC was created to protect citizens from ripoffs by people would treat campaign funds as personal piggybanks instead of for the good of the nation. Craig acted as though these uses are inseparable, but they’re not.
    He should drop the dumb defense, honor his donors and the law, pay back the funds, pay the fine, and quit making Idaho a laughingstock.

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