Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Foggy Bottom

The Roman Senate (98 BCE)

Former U.S. senator Larry Craig (R., Idaho) is in the news again. You will recall that the former senator was arrested in 2007 by a plainclothes policeman at the Minneapolis airport when he assumed an unusually "wide stance" in performing one of Nature's principal offices. He incurred legal fees defending himself against charges of soliciting sex in the men's room.

For refusing to return more than $200,000 in campaign funds spent on legal fees associated with his arrest, the Federal Elections Commission is suing Craig for misuse of said funds. In response, Craig's attorney wrote that, “Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom.” More succinctly, a CBS News headline explains that Craig claims "Bathroom Trip Official Business." Because, explained the ex-senator, "he was traveling between Idaho and the nation's capital for work."

Campaigning for Larry Craig's vacated Senate seat

It makes some sense - wouldn't the senator be reimbursed had he been required to tip some pesky washroom attendant who wouldn't fork over a towel unless his palm were greased, so to speak  . . .

. . .  or for losses sustained in an impromptu craps game in some raffish salle de bain publique while on a diplomatic junket to Marrakech or Port-au-Prince?

Business space/casino

This defense is not without precedent. Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R., AZ) who used campaign funds to defend himself against allegations of impropriety with two male pages in 2006.  The FEC concluded that Kolbe's legal fees were “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duty as a House member.” Enough said. Congessional business.

The difference, I suspect, is that, while Kolbe's alleged transgressions occurred in the Grand Canyon while on a rafting trip with a pair of Congressional pages, Craig's indiscretion occurred in a men's room while en route to Washington and involved an outside-the-Beltway copper with no sense of humor who hadn't a clue what "the business of the Senate" implies, nor why Washingtonians call their town "Foggy Bottom." The pages presumably understood that phrase quite explicitly, having been in and out of Congressional pissoirs any number of times before climbing onto Representative Kolbe's raft. They certainly must have known what “ordinary and necessary expenses" entailed in Kolbe's legislative orbit.

Additionally I would argue that Craig's case has merit if only for offering a refreshingly straightforward and apt account of just how and where the day-to-day work of Congress is done - a labyrithine world of stalls and cubicles where the daily bend-and-thrust of legislative horse trading, senatorial page swapping, floor show ticket sales, arms trading and such like transpires in the horseplay of public interest. 

U. S. Senate chambers
It would seem they manage their affairs similarly in the Vatican - Italian headlines announce:
One only hopes the issue is a happy one.

No comments:

Post a Comment