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Outside group cites Senate Ethics Committee rebuke of Larry Craig in pushing for probe of Blackburn

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A new Senate complaint filed by an outside group against Sen. Marsha Blackburn for flashing her congressional pin to a US Capitol Police officer is citing the conduct of former Sen. Larry Craig to argue that the Tennessee Republican should be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee.

The two situations are markedly different — namely that Craig pleaded guilty for disorderly conduct following a 2007 bathroom sex sting. But a left-leaning outside group sees a direct comparison to the two episodes, accusing Blackburn of also using her influence inappropriately — this time to evade a potential traffic violation against one of her aides, though it’s uncertain any probe of her conduct will take place.

Craig was reprimanded by the panel for his actions during his infamous bathroom incident 14 years ago after he showed a police officer his business card, identifying himself as a US senator. “What do you think about that?” he said, according to the panel’s 2008 public admonishment.

Now, the group Campaign for Accountability has filed a complaint with the panel, citing that episode while seeking an investigation into Blackburn after CNN reported that she jumped out of a car and showed her congressional pin to a US Capitol Police officer, who had pulled over her driver on her way to the airport late last month.

The officer then let her car go and didn’t record the incident. Blackburn’s office told CNN last month that the officer asked for her identification.

“Like Senator Craig showing his business card to a law enforcement officer, Senator Blackburn showed her congressional pin, apparently with the expectation that by doing so she would receive favorable treatment and be permitted to get underway without further delay,” the complaint said. “Such conduct violates Senate rules prohibiting members from using their position and status to receive special or favorable treatment.”

A Blackburn spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint.

It’s uncertain whether the Senate panel will take up the request or simply ignore it. The committee operates in total secrecy until it takes a formal action.

After last month’s incident, a Blackburn aide texted his friends to say that the senator “hopped out, flashed her pin, hopped back in the car [and] said ‘drive!'”

“Officer didn’t say a word, just shook his head,” the aide said in a text message, which was reviewed CNN.

A Blackburn spokesperson confirmed the incident last month to CNN, noting that it was the senator’s driver who was pulled over on their way to the airport leaving the Capitol. “The police officer asked the senator for identification, which she provided, and then proceeded to the airport.”

Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of the group filing the complaint, says the senator’s actions should be investigated.

“This is a cut-and-dried example of an elected official abusing her position to avoid consequences other citizens face,” Kuppersmith said.

Craig’s actions, however, were much more serious allegations and came at a much steeper price, ultimately leading to his decision to retire from the Senate and him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct — all the result of a sting by an officer in a bathroom stall who had accused the senator of soliciting sex. Craig denied he was soliciting sex and long maintained his actions had been misconstrued by the officer. He later failed in an attempt to reverse his guilty plea.

In a 2008 letter to the then-senator, the committee chastised Craig and said that he should not have flashed his business card.

“Under the circumstances present at that time, you knew or should have known that a reasonable person in the position of the arresting officer could view your action and statement as an improper attempt by you to use your position and status as a United States Senator to receive special and favorable treatment,” the committee said.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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