News Religion

In Craig Case, Regulators Say Campaign Funds Cannot Be Used For Self-Defense in Sex Sting

Robin Marty

Former Idaho Senator Larry Craig is learning the hard way that bathroom solicitation can be very expensive.

When former Idaho Senator Larry Craig was caught in 2007 in a sting for attempting to solicit sex in the men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, he claimed he was innocent of everything but having a “wide stance.” He eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but that isn’t the end of his troubles.

Now, Craig is in trouble with the Federal Election Committee for spending campaign cash to defend himself.

Via The St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Regulators said the campaign money was converted to personal use because Craig’s defense in Minnesota had no connection to his campaign for federal office.

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“Mr. Craig used these funds converted from his campaign committee to pay legal expenses he incurred in connection with his arrest, guilty plea, and subsequent efforts to withdraw his guilty plea in Minnesota,” according to the complaint. “These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duties as a senator.”

Regulators added “the expenses … would have existed irrespective of his duties as senator.”

Craig spent over $200,000 in campaign cash in an attempt to defend himself from the charges.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

News Law and Policy

Another Acquittal Handed Down in Freddie Gray Case

Michelle D. Anderson

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on "presumptions or assumptions.”

A Baltimore judge on Monday acquitted another police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams cleared Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore Police Department officer charged by Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct.

The judge heard closing arguments last week.

Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died of a spinal injury he suffered after being taken into police custody in April 2015. His death sparked widespread protests and helped inspire a number of reforms, including an effort by local grassroots activists to allow citizens on police trial boards. The boards, introduced in the 1990s, make decisions about disciplining officers that can be affirmed or reversed by the police commissioner.

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Mosby sought to hold Rice responsible for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt while riding in a police transport van following his arrest.

But Williams, according to a Baltimore Sun report, said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on “presumptions or assumptions.”

Williams had dismissed a second-degree assault charge midway through the trial, while the state had dropped a misconduct charge after recognizing Rice was not directly involved in Gray’s arrest, according to the Sun.

Rice, who is white, is the fourth officer out of six charged by Mosby to go to trial. His trial represents the third acquittal in connection to Gray’s death. Williams cleared officers Edward Nero and Caesar R. Goodson Jr. in May and June, respectively.

The first trial, concerning Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury, or mistrial, in December. Porter’s second trial is scheduled to begin on September 6. The trial of Officer Garrett E. Miller is slated to begin July 27; Sgt. Alicia D. White, October 13.

All officers charged by Mosby pleaded not guilty.

Closing arguments in Rice’s bench trial came on Thursday, the same day officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) announced they had filed friend-of-the-court briefs on July 14 in an effort to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Baltimore’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3.

The union had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the police department from providing internal affairs police records to Baltimore’s civilian review board.

The CJSJ, which is a coalition of grassroots groups and national organizations like Baltimore United for Change, the Baltimore Algebra Project, and Amnesty International, said the union lawsuit is an effort to block “institutional changes leading to police accountability and transparency.” The coalition’s leadership argued that the suit would disable the “civilian review board from carrying out its responsibility in bringing much-needed transparency to Baltimore policing.”

The union had opposed the reform efforts because the proposed changes would allow citizens who lacked “specialized knowledge” about policing to review internal matters, according to the Sun.

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