On September 30, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment in FEC v. Craig for U.S. Senate, finding that Craig for U.S. Senate (Craig Committee) and former Senator Larry Craig (Craig), both individually and in his official capacity as successor treasurer of the Craig Committee, unlawfully converted campaign funds to Craig’s personal use.
The Commission’s complaint alleged that Craig, the Craig Committee, and Kaye L. O’Riordan, in her official capacity as treasurer of the Craig Committee, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act’s ban on converting campaign funds to personal use when the Craig Committee paid more than $200,000 in legal expenses related to Craig’s 2007 arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 52 U. S. C. §30114(b) (at the time 2 U.S.C. §439a(b)).
Mr. Craig was substituted for Ms. O’Riordan as treasurer of the Craig Committee, and he then became a defendant in both his personal and official capacities.
The defendants moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the use of campaign funds for then-Senator Craig’s legal expenses was permissible under the FECA and not subject to the provisions banning personal use. The defendants claimed that several FEC Advisory Opinions (AOs), including AO 2006 35 (Kolbe), approved the use of campaign funds for similar situations.
The district court denied the motion to dismiss on March 28, 2013. On September 30, 2013, the Commission filed a motion for summary judgment.
The court found that all three defendants violated the FECA by converting $197,535 in campaign funds to Craig’s personal use when they paid personal legal expenses unrelated to his duties as a federal officeholder. The Court ordered defendant Craig to pay $242,535 to the U. S. Treasury, representing disgorgement of the campaign funds impermissibly spent, plus a $45,000 civil penalty.
The court declined to order Craig to disgorge the converted funds to the Craig Committee, and declined to impose penalties against the Committee or its treasurer in his official capacity, indicating that in light of the overall situation, including the
Committee’s inactive status, those measures would not be useful.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Case 1:12-cv-00958-ABJ
October 3, 2014