WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Ethics Committee issued a "letter of admonition" to Sen. Larry Craig on Wednesday in connection with his arrest in a Minneapolis airport sex sting last year.
A Senate panel admonished Craig, pictured here in August, for his behavior related to his June 2007 arrest.
In the letter, the committee accused the Idaho Republican of improper conduct in the June arrest. His actions reflected "discreditably" on the chamber, the letter said.
The committee also criticized Craig for using more than $200,000 in campaign funds to pay legal fees related to his case and for flashing his Senate business card at the officer who arrested him. The letter said that move could be seen as an improper attempt to receive "special and favorable treatment."
Craig, 62, was arrested in an airport men's room in June after an undercover officer in an adjoining stall accused him of soliciting sex. Craig quietly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge two months after his arrest without consulting a lawyer.
Craig released a statement Wednesday: "While I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the conclusions reached by the Senate Ethics Committee, from the outset I have encouraged the Committee to act in a timely fashion and they have done so. I will continue to serve the people of Idaho."
An Ethics Committee staff member told CNN that the committee stopped short of full adjudication hearings, which could have been either public or private. The staffer said that the committee also stopped short of recommending any further action to the full Senate, such as censure.
The strongly worded admonition is not required to be read into the record on the Senate floor. But it cannot be appealed and should be taken seriously, the staffer said.
New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli received a similar admonishment in 2002 after an Ethics Committee probe into whether he had improperly accepted gifts from a campaign contributor. Torricelli gave up his re-election bid soon afterward.
When news of Craig's arrest emerged in September, the three-term senator denied the charges and tried to revoke his guilty plea. A state court judge rejected his motion, and Craig is appealing that decision.
Craig said he pleaded guilty without legal advice out of fear that the allegations would be made public at a time when a Boise, Idaho, newspaper was investigating longstanding rumors about his sexuality.
Craig, who is married, denies he is gay.
The Ethics Committee criticized his appeal, saying his claims that he was coerced into pleading guilty and that he did not know what he was doing "do not appear credible."
It called his effort to withdraw the guilty plea "an attempt to evade the legal consequences of an action freely undertaken by you."
"The conduct to which you pled guilty, together with your related and subsequent conduct as set forth above, constitutes improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate," the letter states.
Craig also announced plans to resign after the arrest became public, but then reversed himself and decided to remain in office while he pursues his appeal. He is not seeking re-election in November.
The committee found Craig has spent $213,000 from campaign funds on legal and "public relations" fees on his case without its approval, and warned that any further use of campaign funds without that blessing would be considered "conduct demonstrating your continuing disregard of ethics requirements." E-mail to a friend
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