Craig’s Leadership PAC Shuts Down

Posted January 15, 2008 at 6:03pm

As Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) winds down his career in the Senate after his disorderly conduct arrest at a Minnesota airport last summer, he has quietly shuttered his leadership political action committee.

Alliance for the West, as the account is known, emptied its coffers at the end of last year, and on Jan. 9 filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to shut down. The move is the clearest signal yet that Craig plans to leave politics behind entirely when he steps down at the end of the year.

“It’s a pretty good sign you’re not going to move on to another [politically related] field of endeavor. You’re not going to set up as a lobbyist here in town and use your leadership PAC to make contributions in ways that would be beneficial to your business,” said Scott E. Thomas, a campaign finance expert with Dickstein Shapiro.

Craig’s office did not return a request for comment.

The Idaho Republican has tapped the fund to hand out $541,845 to GOP candidates and committees in the past decade, according to CQ MoneyLine.

On June 26, two weeks after Craig was allegedly caught soliciting gay sex in a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport bathroom, he contributed $2,500 to each of four Senate GOPers facing tough re-election fights. But those lawmakers — Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Pete Domenici (N.M.) and John Sununu (N.H.) — all rid themselves of the money after news of the arrest broke in late August.

Sununu returned the money, and the others gave it to charities in their home states, aides to the Senators said.

The account also got a refund from the Idaho Republican Party, which in December returned a $5,000 check it received from the leadership PAC last year. But public records show Craig sent the check right back. State party officials did not return a call for comment.

The fund, which apparently stopped actively seeking money after the scandal broke, still managed to collect a few corporate checks in the last three months of the year.

It received PAC contributions worth $2,500 each from Federal Express on Oct. 2, Entergy on Nov. 7 and Duke Energy on Dec. 6. Spokesmen for Federal Express and Duke Energy said their companies’ contributions were made before news of Craig’s arrest and were either late getting delivered or banked.

Arthur Wiese, a spokesman for Entergy, said Craig “remains a senior member of the Senate Energy Committee and his Alliance for the West organization was still fully functioning when the contribution was made, now more than two months ago.”

Craig is stepping down when his term ends this year, but he is still waging a legal battle to withdraw his guilty plea from the summer arrest. Earlier this month, his legal team filed a brief with the Minnesota Court of Appeals seeking to overturn a lower court’s ruling in the case.

And while his legal bills may be piling up, Craig would have been prevented by campaign finance law from covering those costs with leadership PAC funds, experts said.

With no legal defense fund established either, Craig appears to be relying on the cash he has banked in his re-election account.

In September, he shelled out $22,952 from his campaign fund to pay the Brand Law Group for legal and strategic counsel on the scandal, FEC filings show.

He closed the third quarter with $474,667 in cash on hand in the account.