Senate Sandwich: Ethics Investigation Edition

By Nitya

Sep 4, 2007 11:18am

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: While he does not technically resign until September 30th, it is a little unclear if and when Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig might return to his office on the 5th floor of the Hart Senate Office building, a floor turning out to be the hub of ethics investigations on Capitol Hill.

The first day back at work for Senators after August recess, cameras and reporters staked out in front of Craig’s office this morning hoping to get pictures of him arriving to work.  Word on the proverbial street is that Craig is lying low in Idaho after he resigned his Senate seat this weekend following last week’s spray of national headlines after the reveal of his guilty plea to disorderly conduct charges in a Minneapolis airport bathroom and subsequent pressure from his own party to step down.  (Note: Journalists have a love/hate relationship with the "word on the street.")

Having already resigned all his Senate committee assignments, it stands to reason that Sen. Craig would be persona non grata should he return to Capitol Hill. With no committee hearings and given that he is not required to vote, Craig needn’t return at all.

His website says he chose the end of the month over an immediate resignation to help facilitate an easy transition and tie up loose ends: helping constituents with passport and pension issues, not tasks that would seem to require personal attention by the soon-to-be-former senior Republican Senator from Idaho.

One journalist couldn’t help noticing, as he stood by Craig’s office, that Craig’s Hart building next door neighbor is none other than Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex, who as the ranking Republican on the Senate Ethics Committee should ostensibly be investigating Craig and his restroom contretemps.

One office further from Craig is another Senator with some recent ethical issues. Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who recently admitted in a preemptive news conference to having called the infamous DC Madam, presumably for the company of a call girl when he was a US Congressman. While Craig’s apparent solicitation of lewd activities in a men’s room led to his ouster, Vitter’s apparent solicitation of a female hooker seems to have blown over. Granted, Craig pleaded guilty to a crime even if he wishes he could take a mulligan.

Regardless, this has got to be convenient office placement for Cornyn. While he is required by ethics committee rules to keep mum on any investigation, we know that there is an investigation into Craig because the Republican leaders in the Senate (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, Craig’s old partner in the "Singing Senators" barbershop quartet and others) publicly asked for it.

It is widely assumed that the ethics committee opened at least a preliminary investigation into Vitter after outside groups, including Citizens Responsible Ethics in Washington, which was the first to complain about Craig last week, lodged complaints against him. But nothing has come of that yet.

A cynic would think there is a double standard for Republican Senators — solicit from a man and you get edged out, solicit from a woman and you don’t.

Not so said McConnell when asked about this apparent double standard at a press conference. He pointed out that in the case of Sen. Craig there was a criminal charge and a guilty plea.

"This was a  stituation last week in which the legal case was essentially over," he said, pointing out that charges have not been filed against Vitter.

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